09-09-13 Seed Collection Field Note

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09-09-13 Seed Collection Field Note

September 9, 2013

Prairie Wolfe's Field Note describes the process and challenges of collecting seeds for restoration and research.

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Seed Collection Field Note Prairie Wolfe September 2013

Collecting enough seed to fulfill the Ranch’s restoration and research needs is difficult. Lepidoptera larvae ate the seeds of these pussytoes (Antennaria spp.).

We have explored affixing seed collection bags to some species. Botanists placed bags over the inflorescences after fertilization but before maturation (Phacelia hastata).

The seed collection bags worked well for some species, such as sticky catchfly (Silene oregana). Bags caught seeds that may have otherwise been lost (upper left),. We explored a variety of different bags. The cotton ones were heavier and tended to fall to the ground. Once on the ground, bags were often damaged by rodents (upper right). The bags offer limited protection from insects (lower right).

Seeds dry on racks above fans circulating air (above). Cleaning seed we’ve spent all summer collecting is a big task, often taking months. Traditionally we’ve done most of the sorting and cleaning manually with sieves, colanders, and fingers (below).

below). After exhaustive research, I found the plans for this seed aspirator from realseeds.co.uk. With a few additional adjustments we will be able to control the vacuum suction. This tool will save us many hours of manual seed cleaning.

Much of our seed collection has focused on drought tolerant native species that tend to colonize well in disturbed areas. Other restoration considerations include pollinator attractants, ungulate forage, and species that compete well against aggressive invasives.

We recently took a trip to visit Bryce Christiaens at Native Ideals Seed Farm in Arlee. Their crops are mostly finished for the season. Rocky Mountain bee plant remains in full bloom (Cleome serrulata). This species is attractive to pollinators and is one of only a handful of flowers blooming so late in the season. Bryce offered insights that could help MPG become more self-reliant for increased seed demands.

Current Seed Inventory