Tom's Blog

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Major seed collecting begins

Although we have been collecting seeds of a few plant species since June, the big seed collecting push is just beginning. From now until early November, we'll be collecting seeds every day we are in the field, as different species become "ready".

Many of us first learned how to collect seeds from Mark and Sue Martin at the Madison Audubon Society's Goose Pond Sanctuary, and yesterday we started again. The photo shows the group getting their orientation. In addition to the "regulars", there were quite a few new participants. Some of these people are interested in planting their own prairies, but others just want to volunteer, enjoying the chance to do something constructive in the outdoors. Seed collecting is one of the more enjoyable activities involved in ecological restoration.

Goose Pond Sanctuary has over 500 acres of planted prairies, one of the largest prairie areas in southern Wisconsin. Prairie planting began in 1976, with what is now called the Bicentennial Prairie, and picked up steam when Mark and Sue Martin became the resident managers in the 1980s. The area was part of the very large (over 5000 acres) Empire Prairie that extended north from Lake Mendota for many miles. Unfortunately, this was prime agricultural land (the U.W. Madison Experimental Farms are nearby) so that most of the prairie was destroyed a long time ago. There are just a few small prairie remnants left.

Which species are collected on any given day will depend on what the growing and seed formation conditions have been like. Although there is a certain regularity with each species, there is always a lot of year-to-year variability.

Yesterday we collected tall meadow rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) prairie cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta), glade mallow (Napaea dioica), and flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata).


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