"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." ~ John Muir
I have spent a lifetime hiking through the prairies and hills that surround my area. The prairie provides such beauty and solace for me. A couple of those hikes have been with Lance Brisbois, Project Coordinator of Golden Hills RC&D. Each year, Golden Hills RC&D partner with county conservations and seed harvest. I recently interviewed Lance to bring awareness on conservation and restoration projects that are so near and dear to me.
Lance Brisbois (Picture Courtesy of Golden Hills RC&D)
Seed Harvesting (Picture courtesy of Golden Hills RC&D)
- How long has the seed harvesting program been going on?
Golden Hills began coordinating seed harvest events in fall 2018 in partnership with Pottawattamie Conservation at Hitchcock Nature Center. Since then, the project has expanded to many other areas in the Loess Hills region.
- What positive impacts have you noticed since the seed harvest came into fruition?
We have had more than 60 volunteers attend at least one of the events, where we teach them about the importance of local ecotype remnant prairie seed and how to harvest different species. Many more people have learned about it through media, social media, and word of mouth. The seed we harvest has been used for local prairie restoration and reconstruction projects in the Loess Hills. Golden Hills has also used some of the seed to create seed mix packets and propagate plants in a partnership with Iowa Western Community College. The plants grown in their greenhouse are sold in our spring native plant sale. Both larger-scale ecological restoration and smaller-scale backyard garden projects have benefited from our work. Every native plant on the landscape provides many benefits such as pollinator food sources, wildlife habitat, and reduced soil erosion. Using locally-harvested seed is encouraged over seed purchased from outside the region.
- How can someone help become involved with Prairie Conservation?
We are hosting numerous seed harvest events over the next several weeks, and plan to continue next spring as soon as seed is ready to harvest. The events not only help directly with restoration projects, but are a great opportunity to connect with other folks who have an interest in prairies. Many resources exist to help landowners, farmers, and the general public learn about and get involved with prairies. One of the best first steps anyone can take is start by incorporating native plants into with whatever they have—whether it’s a few plants in their yard, or many acres of prairie. Other conservation agencies also offer valuable hands-on volunteer opportunities. Info on our seed harvest events is available at https://goldenhillsrcd.org/prairieseed
and on our Facebook page.
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is one of the many prairie plants I have in my garden. My sweet girl, Tinkerbell, loves to smell and sit with Wild Bergamot. Most days I have bees and Painted Lady butterflies covering the blooms.
- Is there a specific prairie plant that really needs help?
Several rare, threatened, and endangered species exist in our local prairies. Biodiversity is an important aspect of prairies so we do not focus on any one species. The Coefficient of Conservatism is a tool used to assess species’ tolerance to environmental degradation. Species with a score of 9 or 10 require the highest-quality prairies to thrive. Golden Hills has worked with local partners to create a Loess Hills Plant List that includes information about species’ habitat and conservation status: https://www.goldenhillsrcd.org/plantlist.html
Prairie Fringe Orchid (Platanthera praeclara). I found this rare beauty on one of my late summer hikes. This orchid can be found on the Loess Hills Plant List.
- What prairie plants would you recommend for someone's home garden?
Just about any of them! Shade tolerance, soil types, and height of the plants are important factors to consider where you’re planting. A combination of forbs (wildflowers) and grasses & sedges is recommended. Again, diversity is key. Try to find species that bloom throughout the season for pollinators and other wildlife. Compass plant (silphium laciniatum) is one of my favorites. It is a tall forb with yellow composite flowers, and the sandpaper-textured leaves often orient themselves north-south.
Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) One of Lance's favorite plants and it is Prairie Star Botanicals' Mascot, pictured in our learning garden.
- Have you personally met Big Foot?
I don’t think so…but his fur blends in with the prairie so it’s possible that he was hiding in plain sight! I want to believe…
Looks like Lance has missed another opportunity to meet Big Foot! (Photo courtesy of Golden Hills RC&D)
We at Prairie Star are very grateful for Lance and the Golden Hills RC&D and their partners for the wonderful effort made in Prairie restoration and conservation. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so accurately describes in Nature and selected Essays: " In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.”, we encourage you to go outside, become involved with conservation projects in your area.