Tom's Blog

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Transplanting prairie and savanna forbs and grasses

We have been raising uncommon prairie and savanna forbs and grasses in the greenhouse for the past 7 years and transplanting them to the field. This is a fairly time consuming process, but is more certain than throwing out seed. This has been fairly successful. The focus has been on species that are endangered or of special concern.

This year species that we have transplanted include prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya, federally endangered), purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens, state endangered), and upland boneset (Eupatorium sessilifolium, threatened). Past experience has shown that these species transplant and become established well as long as we choose the right sorts of habitats. In addition, this year we have set out other species for which we had a lot of seed, including silky aster, New Jersey tea, purple prairie clover, prairie thimbleweed, prairie dropseed, woodland thistle, prairie phlox, pale purple coneflower, and Sullivan's milkweed.

A numbered flag is placed next to each transplant, and we set up an Excel spreadsheet for monitoring.

We have been following transplants since we first started in 2006. Since the flags burn up, each flag has a numbered fire resistant porcelain insulator at its base. Soon after we finish burns in the spring, the white insulators contrast well with the black soil and are easy to find.

Watering transplants
If a plant doesn't establish, or dies out later, its flag and insulator are pulled. However, we have quite a few plants from the earlier transplant periods that are still alive.

Watering transplants
Depending on the weather, we may or may not have to water the transplants. In the early stages of transplanting, we water once a week whether it rains or not (this year the rain has been cooperating well). A checkmark is placed next to each flag number in the database as it is watered. That way we make sure we don't miss any plant.

As the growing season goes by, we monitor the results. Some species from past years that have become established well are cream baptisia,  prairie dropseed, and butterfly milkweed.


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