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Nachusa Grasslands has record seed harvest

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 12th, 2013

Volunteer Jay Stacy collects seeds as part of The Nature Conservancy’s ongoing Nachusa Grasslands restoration project near Franklin Grove. (Photo contributed)

FRANKLIN GROVE – Despite last summer’s severe drought, volunteers and staff at The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands managed to harvest a record number of seeds as the team continued to restore the land to its original landscape.

Some 6,500 pounds of seeds were collected by hand with Conservancy managers, seasonal staff and Nachusa volunteers handling the collection along with many other restoration activities. In the past two years, harvests have yielded an average of about 4,000 pounds.

“The drought made it challenging and as a result we had about 50 fewer species,” said Cody Considine, a Conservancy Restoration Ecologist at Nachusa. “But drought is a naturally-occurring event which rights itself in the long-term. Site restoration is like a recipe. Before the seed can be planted, a recipe or planting mix must be developed specific to the planting area. To recreate prairie ecosystems, it all has to work together – function together.”

Nachusa Grasslands is a 4,000-acre preserve in Franklin Grove (Lee County). It is one of the largest prairie landscapes in the state, composed of a mix of prairie restorations among remnant prairie and oak savanna habitat. In October, a portion of the site received the Illinois Nature Preserve designation due to its rich diversity of plant and animal species, some of which are rare and state-endangered including the prairie bush clover and eastern prairie white-fringed orchids. The Conservancy and its many volunteers conduct prescribed burns, monitor wildlife and stop the spread of harmful, non-native species.

To name some of the larger collections, 633 pounds of pale purple coneflower, 528 pounds of white wild indigo and 208 pounds of wild quinine were gathered. Meanwhile, the seeds from copper-shoulder oval sedge and grass-leaved goldenrod, which are very tiny, were collected at 90 and 100 pounds respectively.

“You have to be on your toes and know what seeds are mature for collecting, some seeds can stay ready for weeks whereas others will only be ready for a couple days,” Considine said. “We keep very detailed records of what we’ve collected, where we’ve burned and keep maps showing where and what we can expect to get.”

For the complete article see the 02-13-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-13-2013 paper.

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