Written by Native Plant Materials Program Co-Manager Allegra Mount
Our work providing native plants and seeds for restoration projects and retail follows the rhythm of the seasons. If the landscape feels alive and buzzing then you can bet we are too - humming along with projects at the nursery, planting in wild lands, and sending plants off to their final homes. Fall in the borderlands similarly follows; as the landscape begins to wind down into the dormancy of winter, so do we (although a quiet winter is only optimistic!), but not before one last big push to harvest the fall's great bounty: seeds!
While we are collecting and cleaning seed all times of year, our collection season is most heavily concentrated in the fall. Our summer monsoons cause an explosion of color through abundant blooms, and grasslands and woodland understory that erupt in green. It's impossible to ignore the inevitable result - the seeds! - that stick to your pant legs and shirt cuffs as you walk from your front door to your car.
Over the past 5 years we've learned our favorite spots and species to collect, but every year we are expanding. A lot can affect the seed crop, from insects that lay their larvae in seed heads, to grasshoppers that starve the mother plant of nutrients needed for seed set, to poor rains that reduce seed maturity, to late rain storms that knock seed down and encourage molding and rot. Every year we make plans and adjust them constantly as we watch the clouds and spend time among these populations, making new plant friends along the way.
Getting to know plants in their seed/seed-head form can be a great way to boost your plant ID skills - especially with grasses! Our volunteer seed-cleaning mornings will be shifted to seed collection until December. Join us Monday mornings from 9 am - noon as we drive out to explore different parts of our local landscape and collect seed that will be used for future restoration projects.
This year we are working with 5 different national parks to collect native seed! Including: Coronado National Monument, Chiricahua National Monument, Ft. Bowie National Monument, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and Petrified Forest National Park. We work with the parks to prioritize species and collect seed that is slated for use in upcoming restoration projects. There are some volunteer opportunities to get involved with this - contact us for more information.
To sign up to volunteer for seed collection in New Mexico with Sky Island Alliance and Borderlands restoration in October visit this link.
For other opportunities contact Allegra at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
And enjoy the changing of the seasons as summer slips into fall!
Image: volunteers collect seed at Saguaro National Park in 2016. In 2018 we are going to 5 different national parks to collect seed! Contact us for volunteer opportunities.