The BCCD harvests an impressive diversity of native plant seeds for use in ecological restoration projects throughout the county. BCCD staff and volunteers endeavor to provide an enduring representation of native plant species on the Boone County landscape.
The BCCD has access to the seeds of over 400 species of native wildflowers, grasses, sedges, rushes, bulrushes, shrubs and trees. Of those, BCCD staff and volunteers harvest no less than 200 species annually, depending on upcoming project needs.
Most seed collection is performed by hand, by both staff and volunteers. Seed is collected from May through October annually, and collection is guided by the previous year’s harvest records. The BCCD collects only 1/3 to 1/2 of the available seed for any given species. This practice will ensure that food resources remain for wildlife, and that native plants will persist on the site. Collected seed is bagged and brought to our maintenance facility for storage.
The BCCD uses a walk-in cooler to store and preserve seed. This climate-controlled cooler maintains the viability of seed and improves organization of our harvest. Seeds are stored according to habitat type or intended project area while they await cleaning and processing.
The goal of seed cleaning is to remove the dried flower parts (aka chaff) from the actual seed. This helps maintain the viability of the seed and gives us a better idea of how much seed we possess. BCCD staff and volunteers spend much time cleaning seed by hand and with screens, and by using a chipper-shredder and hammer mill. After cleaning, weight of seed is obtained and documented, as are the number of seeds per species and total market value of the seed. This information is used to compile seed mixes and determine the rates at which the seeds are broadcasted onto a planting area. Cleaned and documented seeds are returned to cold storage where they await mixing and broadcast.
Grass species, and wildflower species we have in abundance, are placed and mixed in large bags or barrels. These are species that will be broadcasted onto the entire planting area by a tractor-driven spreader. Many individual species will be left separate and will be broadcasted by hand by staff and volunteers. Broadcasting of seed typically occurs during the winter, and on top of snowfall. Sowing seed on snow allows us to see which areas have been covered and provides seeds the period of moist/cold treatment they often need to germinate.
Perhaps the most evolved of our seeding approaches, sowing individual species in groups have allowed us to improve our access to native seeds and the quality of our plantings. Establishing wildflowers in groups improves cross-pollination of a species, ensuring viable seed production and the continued presence of a species in a planting. Larger groups of wildflowers also offer a conspicuous food source for pollinators and other wildlife. These groupings of species also offer conspicuous collecting resources for BCCD staff and volunteers. New plantings become new seed sources for the BCCD and are becoming increasingly diverse and beneficial to our local wildlife.