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What is Seed Stratification and How Does it Work?

As a land management company that specializes in ecological restoration, we understand the importance of looking at the landscape as an interconnected whole, with layers that collectively contribute to the overall health of a site. A healthy landscape starts at the ground level with a robust groundcover layer. One proven effective way to establish a groundcover layer is through seeding, but there’s one important step that greatly improves the success of germination: seed stratification.

What is seed stratification?

Stratification is the process by which a stimulus prompts the end of a seed’s dormancy period. Once this process is started, the coat of a seed is broken down, moisture is allowed in, and germination begins. Stratification is ultimately a survival mechanism ensuring that a seed doesn’t germinate too soon and become exposed to harsh environmental conditions that may diminish its likelihood of survival.

Many seeds require a temperature shift in order to jump-start the stratification process, making the winter months a critical time for ensuring successful seed germination. Seeding times vary from species to species, meaning that germination may not be immediate and growth may not be immediately evident. However, this doesn’t mean that nothing is happening below the surface. In many cases, especially during the winter months, seeds are undergoing stratification, which is an essential step in the lifecycle of a seed.

How does seed stratification influence CLM's work?

While completing a restoration project, timing is an important factor. Typically, vegetation removal work that needs to be completed for a project, such as invasive species removal, will be completed in the winter months. After this, while the temperatures are lower, the exposed soil will be scarified and seed will be sown. Timing projects in this manner allows seeds to undergo stratification and emerge healthy in the spring.

For additional information on seed stratification or for more on working with us, please contact Crawford Land Management at 508.477.1346 or email us at


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