Let My People Grow

It seems strange to need to say this but, peyote is a flowering plant that grows from a seed. The reason I even feel the need to mention it is that because as our medicine has become more of an item of commerce, it’s too easy to lose touch with the basic life cycle that must take place in the desert before it’s harvested for our use.

It’s not a fast cycle. Depending on what rains and drought might come, a mature peyote plant in the wild can easily be 15 to 50 years old, oftentimes more. Properly harvested plants from mature roots left intact can regrow new tops faster, likely in 5 to 8 years. But the initial germinated seed the plant came from took 10 to 15 years of growing before it was of sufficient size to ethically harvest.

I mention this because today I am discussing that life cycle with photos which will illustrate the process of growing from seed, and the time period involved.

Also, I will outline the process of Natural Acclimated Culture, a method of cultivating peyote under natural conditions with little to no artificial input. In fact in this sense, “cultivating” peyote is something of an overstatement. Natural Acclimated Culture is a method in which peyote grows itself under natural conditions.

Old timers were more familiar with the life process of the medicine as in the past, large expanses of desert where it grew profusely were still accessible. In the last few decades actually being able to walk and pray and harvest on one’s own has become less common among peyote pilgrims who travel to acquire sacrament. These days most prayers in the gardens are offered at the small shrines at dealer’s residences (or Grandma Cardenas’ home) and medicine is purchased off racks filled with the pickings from distant ranches.

Familiarizing ourselves with its life cycle, to me, is a natural part of a closer relationship with the medicine. It has a lot to teach us about time, endurance, patience, and the generational effects our actions today have on tomorrow.

Flowering plant with fruit.
Fruits and seeds.

The seeds sprout relatively quickly, almost like they know they’re going to need a lot of time so they’d better get started asap. When planted in cultivation most seeds germinate within 10 days. In the desert, they depend on seasonal rains to get their start, so they may be waiting around for several months before conditions are right for them to sprout.

Newly sprouted seedling.

Cultivated seedlings at two weeks old.

Seedlings just under one year old ready for transplanting.

In nature, seedlings are not guaranteed of sprouting in a spot they can actually survive. It takes a sheltered area under a nurse-plant with just the right amount of diffused sunlight for seedlings to survive their first few years. Much like sea turtles whose survival rate is estimated at approximately 1 of every 1,000 hatchlings reaching adulthood, the chances of a single wild peyote seed surviving long enough to produce more seed is likely similarly low. Using standard cultivation techniques we can raise this survival level to 90% or above.

Two year old seedlings.

At three years of growth seedlings are ready for transplanting into the ground to acclimate to ecological conditions in a specific habitat suitable for its growth. Survival rates for three year old seedlings transplanted in this way are very high.

Three year old seedling ready for transplanting outdoors in Natural Acclimated Culture.

Natural Acclimated Culture of peyote is possible with no greenhouses (except in the earliest seedling stage), no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, and with little to no supplemental irrigation in suitable areas of several southwestern states. Peyote naturally occurs in ecosystems climatically categorized as USDA Zones 8b through 9b. Areas matching these temperature rated zones optimal for peyote’s growth are candidates for the establishment of dedicated preserves utilizing Natural Acclimated Culture conservation methods.

What this means is that a sustainable method of peyote cultivation is completely possible without resorting to invasive or unnatural agricultural practices. It is as natural as any medicine grows, just given a survival advantage in the first 3 years of the delicate seedling’s lives.

This is a method known as inter situ conservation, a means of preserving a species whose natural habitat is severely threatened. Maintaining a healthy inter situ population as a supplemental resource to native, at risk populations, works like a backup team relieving pressure on the front lines.

There is much to be said about cultivating medicine and over the years I have experienced how much it wants to grow. Our job is simply to act as a supportive agent, letting it have what it needs but not forcing or rushing the process in any way. That is not the nature of the medicine.

Sweet medicine of the earth. Protect us and help us with the things we need to live, the spiritual and the physical elements of life that we need to grow. Please help us with these things through our Heavenly Creator. Thank you.

The way I pray for myself and my family is the way I pray for the medicine’s future. Let us provide the physical and spiritual means for it to grow. And let us grow along with it.

Over the years the Lorax has assisted many people in maintaining their own sacramental gardens. Future posts will take up the topics of seedling production, transplanting, and rooting cuttings in more detail. One of the more common questions is concerning a proper soil mix for medicine. Here is a link to a soil recipe made from commonly available materials.

For everyone who’s following along in this discussion and who has a passion for growing medicine I say welcome brothers and sisters. The time to grow is now. And every peyote seed existing and to come agrees.

Click below to see next post

Not The Brightest Button In The Cluster

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