Tag Archives: Seed

Seed Collecting: Using Nature’s Way of Restocking

In October we’ve been collecting native plant seed in our parks. After all the work of growing, flowering, and making seed, plants have one more task for the year: dispersing the seed. Fluffy seeds ride the wind, buoyant seeds float on water, tasty seeds ride in the guts of animals, and “sticker” seeds cling to animal fur (or your favorite pair of socks!). And a few seeds ride in the paper bags of industrious humans! So it’s all hands on deck to collect seed during harvest time!

Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) just starting to form its seed. This is an example of seeds that are not quite mature enough to collect yet.

We collect native seeds to continue our natural areas restoration work throughout the parks. In 2019 we spread quite a bit of seed at Charles Ilsley Park, Stony Creek Ravine Nature Park, and Bear Creek Nature Park in areas where we had removed invasive shrubs. The competition from native plants helps prevent non-native species from coming back. We also spread native plant seed after controlled burns to help increase plant diversity in an area.

We try to remove only about one-third of the available seed for any of our target species. We want to leave enough seed to maintain healthy populations of native plants, while also providing food for birds and other wildlife. If the area is large enough we collect from many different plants to ensure that our seed has lots of genetic diversity.

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We collect seed on a small scale, so we mostly harvest by hand. For some plants we simply snip the dried inflorescence from the plant, collecting the entire seed head. This method works best for species that are very tough and difficult to remove by hand (Black-eyed Susan), and for plants with seed that might shake off easily (asters). We also strip seed from the stem by hand. We use this method for many grasses when the seeds are mature and easy to remove from the stem. We place the collected seed in paper bags so that it can dry without molding or rotting.

Volunteers in various stages of seed cleaning in 2018.

After the seed dries we clean it so that it is easier to mix and spread. We remove the seeds from the seed heads, pods, or other “fruits,” and winnow out any excess plant material. We only need the seed clean enough to combine with other species in seed mixes. We aren’t too worried about some extra leaves, stems, and other chaff.  Our end product is a nice bag of seed packaged in plastic bag to keep extra moisture out.

Alyssa with our stock of native plant seed from 2018.

We are almost finished collecting seed for the season since most of the plants have dispersed their seeds. Keep an eye out for next year’s fall newsletter to see which days we will be collecting seed in 2020. If you are interested in helping us this year, we have a seed cleaning work day on December 3, 2019 from 12:30 – 3:30 pm at Watershed Ridge Park (1720 W. Buell Rd). If you have any questions about this work day or any questions about seed collecting don’t hesitate to ask!

Help needed with fall seed collection! And Gallagher Creek Park workday this Saturday…

Two volunteer opportunities are scheduled for the next few weeks. First, we will have a volunteer workday this Saturday at Gallagher Creek Park. See details below. Second, we’re busy collecting collecting seeds and need your help!

Seed Collecting

Join stewardship staff to collect native plant seeds! These opportunities will be during normal business hours Monday to Friday. Exact timing will depend on your availability and staff availability. If you’d like to help, contact Ben VanderWeide to schedule a time (click here to see contact information). We collect seeds in many of the high quality natural areas, so you’ll probably get to see some new places in our parks!

The primary function of fruits is the help seed dispersal. For example, wild lupine fruits (top right) throw the seeds away from the parent plant, while the pappus (fluff) of joe-pye weed (bottom left)  helps with wind dispersal.
The primary function of fruits is to disperse the seed. For example, wild lupine fruits (top right) throw the seeds away from the parent plant, while the pappus (fluff) of joe-pye weed (bottom left) helps with wind dispersal. Top left – black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta). Bottom right – yellow coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).

We've been busy collecting seeds, but we need your help! These seeds will be used to restore disturbed areas and revegetate areas that used to be covered with invasive plant species.
We’ve been busy collecting seeds, but we need your help! These seeds will be used to restore disturbed areas and revegetate areas that used to be covered with invasive plant species. We need to fill as many paper bags as possible!

Gallagher Creek Park Workday

  • When: Saturday, October 11, 2014, 9 am – noon. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be cancelled.
  • Who: Anyone! This event is free, with no experience necessary. We’ll train you to do the work.
  • Why: Why not? We will be remove non-native invasive shrubs and preparing an area for planting native plants. Come out on Saturday to enjoy beautiful areas and hang out with great people! And food after we finish working!
  • What: Bring water and gloves, and wear closed-toed shoes and long pants. We’ll have extra gloves if you can’t bring your own.

We’ll provide water and light snacks. You will need to sign a release form before we begin working. Families are encouraged to attend! All minors will need permission from a parent or guardian to participate, and minors under 14 will need to have a parent or guardian present. We will have lots of fun, so plan to come and share this opportunity with others! The schedule of upcoming workdays can be found at the Volunteer Calendar.