One of the goals of the Friends of Nachusa Grasslands is to conduct and encourage stewardship at Nachusa Grasslands. This PrairiE-Update on Seed Harvesting is the fifth installment in our "What We Do at Nachusa Grasslands" series.
Seed collection at Nachusa Grasslands usually begins in May and ends in November. Staff and volunteers harvest over 200 native species to restore prairies, wetlands, and savannas.
Deciding if a particular species is ready for harvest is a complex task, so the stewards and staff confer frequently on when and where to collect seeds.
Seed Collecting Practices:
Consult previous harvest dates and locations.
Determine seed readiness before beginning.
Generally, pick just one species at a time.
Leave some plants at each collection site.
Record quantities of each species harvested.
General Seed Readiness Criteria:
Seed coats changing from green to brown
Seed heads fluffed out
Earliest formed seeds dropping
Stems dry and usually brown
Seeds in pods dark and hard
Most seeds are collected by hand, usually with scissors or snips. Buckets, bags, and barrels are used to hold the seeds in the field.
Seed Harvesting Example
Cream Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea) blooms in May and June.
Pick the seeds in late July or early August when the pods start to turn black.
A good morning's haul
Picking woodland species
Summer seed-collecting workday group
Each season presents new challenges, which keeps the process interesting and rewarding. Join our Saturday workdays from 9 am to noon to learn more about stewardship at Nachusa Grasslands, including seed harvesting. Training and equipment are provided.