Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall Harvest

By Simba Blood

Bloom, pod, open, disperse. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) moves through reproductive phases.

Seeds are labeled with name, site, and initials of staff who
collected it.

As the season turns cooler and daylight decreases, many of our native flowers reach the culmination of all their efforts; those gorgeous summer blooms are now the repository of a potential new generation.

This time of year, in between fall weed control and preparing sites for next year's restoration efforts, the NR staff spends some time collecting these seeds to use in new restorations or enhancing diversity in previously restored areas.

Collecting and cleaning seed
is a big job.

A REALLY big job!
There are some guidelines we follow in this collection. We want to be sure of the origin of the plants we use, so we collect almost exclusively from areas we have restored. There are a very few large remnant stands of native plants in the District that we also have permission to harvest from. Recently, our own office site has become an excellent source of seeds for our new projects. And I have to confess I collect blazing star from my mother's yard since her plants came from a nursery we also use.

Another consideration is how much we collect. Ideally, we harvest no more than 1/4 of the seeds from any stand. Although these are perennial plants there is always the potential for some mortality; we want to ensure there are enough seeds left for the population to remain vigorous and even expand. More importantly, one of the major reasons for restoring landscapes is to provide habitat. We don't want to deprive seed eating birds of a valuable food source. It's easier to keep in mind when you can see flocks of finches feeding on the seed heads from the office window!

Alright, as promised, quiz time.
 See if you can name the seeds above without looking at the answers below.


Top left to right: Sprengles sedge, geranium, columbine. 
Bottom left to right: Purple cone flower, blue flag iris, butterfly milkweed (acceptable answer: swamp milkweed)

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