Thursday, May 22, 2008

Patty Prairie Seed

You've heard of Johnny Appleseed? Lately I've dubbed myself Patty Prairie Seed. In the last 24 hours, I've donned the role twice.

I'm watching the back prairie as it recovers from both significant overgrazing and this spring's burn. For the most part I'm trying not to interfere too much, although obviously the burn was a management tool. Prairiewolf and I have also been pulling yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) before it blooms, since that can be such an invasive intruder and we have a noticeable, but not yet overwhelming, amount of it back there.

For seeding new species into the area, however, I'm being very conservative and only adding seed from plants that I find in nearby areas...such as our front 5 acres or roadside ditches within 5-10 miles. Last fall I scattered some little bluestem seed (Schizachyrium scoparium, from the front acreage), sideoats grama seed (Bouteloua curtipendula, from the front and from area ditches), Illinois bundleflower seed (Desmanthus illinoensis, from nearby roadside ditches), and - breaking my general policy - compass plant seed (Silphium laciniatum) from Dyck Arboretum. Earlier this spring in my front prairie, I found a plains' wildindigo (Baptisia bracteata var. leucophaea) seed pod with viable seed inside it, so I scattered that seed after the burn last month.
Last night I collected seed from the Carolina anemone (Anemone caroliniana) plants that I found and marked last month, then scattered them in the back prairie. Feeling rather fey, I lifted the clumps of seed up into the wind and let the wind carry the seeds where it would... making sure that "where it would" would fall within our 5 acre plot! I'm sure my success ratio will be rather low, but I tell myself that I'm mimicking "Mother Nature" in my methodology.

This morning, behind the draw, I found a seed pod from a newly discovered plant of blue wildindigo, Baptisia australis var. minor. That seemed to merit a reappearance of Patty Prairie Seed, so I scattered that seed out back too.

I'm guessing that the back prairie already had a bit of little bluestem and sideoats grama in it, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to confidently tell if any of those seeds germinated and added to the natural diversity there, but I haven't seen signs of any of the forb species that I've seeded in. Knowing how slow prairie perennials are to grow and bloom, I'm not likely to see signs of success for several years. In fact, given my laissez-faire methods, it may be that none of these seeds will ever germinate, but meanwhile I feel compelled to do what I can. Acting as an agent of Gaia, I guess you could say, but "Patty Prairie Seed" sounds much more down home and appropriate.

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