(2020 image of collected seeds as part of the volunteer prairie seed harvest of the Loess Hills, see goldenhillsrcd.org/prairieseed to volunteer.)
Have you ever admired a vista of blowing grasses dipping and rising like waves in the wind? Or perhaps little birds perched atop dried flower heads to peck at their seeds has caught your eye? While these scenes are often enjoyed in our gardens and urban settings, they are most precious in the wild landscape of prairies.
Our recent "Prairie Plant Conservation" blog post series delved into the responsible harvesting of medicinal plants. As autumn approaches and the growing season begins to end, we want to continue the discussion of conservation, this time about prairie seeds - harvesting and storing them. The following information is taken from "Growing Native Plants" online class worksheet, by Cait Caughey of Mullein Hill Farm, as found at goldenhillsrcd.org:
Before Harvesting/Collecting, get it Right!
* Right Time - Native prairie seeds may be ready to collect in any season, not just autumn. Only collect when the seed is mature so that the life cycle of the plant is not disrupted.
* Right Place - On public land, always double check first if harvesting is permitted. On private land, be sure to get owner approval first.
* Right Plant - Properly identify each plant you wish to collect seeds from (scientific name, genus, and species).
* Right Amount - Only collect a small amount of seed from a stand of plants... 1/3 of seed available is the recommendation. NEVER take plants that are rare or growing in small quantities in any area. Take care to maintain the biodiversity of any area where you are collecting from.
(Image of hiking the trails with friends at Hitchcock Nature Center, Iowa.)
Tips for Storing Seeds Properly
* Keep them dry, out of light, and in a cool place.
* Seeds are best stored in paper bags or envelopes and then inside dark containers.
* Keep in mind that glass jars can sometimes introduce moisture.
* Always keep seeds out of sunlight as this will decrease their viability.
We, at Prairie Star Botanicals, are devoted to the preservation of the unique, native ecosystems that prairies provide - by sharing education and resources, as well as putting in the time and physical work involved in community efforts to keep our prairies going. All of us here are involved, in a variety of ways, to the life of our precious and important prairies!
For previous information, see our Prairie Journal blog post "Prairie Plant Conservation Part 1: Responsible Harvesting of Native Medicinal Plants". On Instagram, explore our hashtag #preciousprairieland
Look for more to come in our "Prairie Plant Conservation series"!
Since we are always learning from experienced doers and educators, we value and appreciate sharing information that others have collectively provided for public education. Resources such as goldenhillsrcd.org, prairieecologist.com, and iowaprairienetwork.org, to name a few. Thank You!
(Image of a green metallic bee pollinating a naturalized Chicory bloom.)