Guided round-table discussion Stewardship Council Annual Meeting Brookfield Zoo
January 13, 2019, 2:00 to 5:00 PM
A round-table discussion on seed matters

Written responses to some discussion questions by Jim Vanderpoel, Chair of Restoration Committee, Citizens for Conservation

 

Background:

 

How large a part of your work do seeds represent? A large amount—certainly the majority.
When or under what conditions should we add seeds - and how? CFC adds seeds to all of the former agricultural land it owns or manages, whether formerly plowed fields or grazed woodlands or wetlands. We hand sow seed mix- es mixed with perlite.
How long have you had a seed program? How did you get started? How is it going? Thirty-one years. We started collecting from the remnant natural areas along the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Tracks between Palatine and Harvard. Seed program is going extremely well.

Seed collecting and creating seed mixes:

 

About how many species of seed do you pick in a typical year? Typical has been around two hundred species.
How has this evolved over time? We have managed a slow but steady increase. We had an explosive increase this year because of our cooperative arrangement with Lake County Forest Preserve District’s nursery program.
How do you get it all picked? Who provides the expertise and leadership? We now have a Restoration Project Man- ager, but in the past we have relied on our restoration committee and long-time restoration chair Tom Vanderpoel.
In summer and fall, how large a proportion of your group’s work is seed harvest, prep, and planting? Significant portion in early and mid-summer—almost exclusive in late summer and fall.
Do you make seed mixes? If yes, how many/what kinds of seed mixes do you create? Yes, we make many seed mix- es—it varies from year to year—open marsh, sedge meadow, wet prairie, wet mesic prairie, mesic prairie, dry-mesic prairie, dry prairie, open savanna, closed savanna and wet savanna. 


Seed planting:

 

How do you get seeds planted? When do you plant? In general, we hand sow our mixes in late fall. 

Approximately how many acres does your group plant per year? We have never done a calculation, but probably between two hundred and three hundred acres. 

Do you do anything special with the site before you plant (i.e. re-sprout-spray, Rx burn, rake away leaves, raking-in)? We rake in our special legume mix into burned areas.
What have you learned, through past years of experience, that have led you to your current planting methods? We really emphasize planting the right seed into the right habitat. We also obsessively overseed into existing plantings.

Who decides where to plant, and who actually does the planting? In the past our long-time restoration chair would decide where to plant, now our Restoration Project Manager makes the call-with input from BGI Advisory Council and Restoration Committee. 

Any special techniques? Raking in legume seed mixed with inoculant has been very successful. 

What are the considerations in deciding where to plant seed? (Inter-seeding, newly cut areas, troublesome areas) We consider all of these factors. 

How do you assess the results of your plantings? We do frequent informal inspections-our new Restoration Project Manager intends to introduce more systematic rigor in our assessments. 


How the seed component of your stewardship work affects the volunteer program:

 

Has the seeds component of your program helped develop restoration skills, knowledge and insights among stew- ards and volunteer leaders? If so, do you have examples? It is crucial for building the knowledge of the team, be- cause you can’t harvest seed effectively without knowing the habitats and being able to identify plants.

Does your seeds program attract plant-lovers to volunteer? Not as many as I would think.

Does the existence of your seeds program help you to have a more vibrant restoration community? Definitely—our volunteers like results and our staggering abundance of scores of species of uncommon plants really pumps the vol- unteers up. Examples? This year, so many people showed up at our seed mixing workday they began bumping into each other.

 

Expanding the seed program (gathering more seed):

 

Do you think you pick enough seed every year for your site's needs? Yes. Shear volume yes—we’d still like to get more of less successful plants.
Are there limiting factors? It is very difficult to harvest certain species of seed like hoary puccoon and prairie phlox.

How do you motivate volunteers to pick seed? People like results—they see the bags fill up. We often tell them how rare these plants are and young people really are fascinated at the dollar value of rare plant seed. 


How do you balance brush-cutting and seed collecting, especially in the fall when there are lots of ripe seeds but brush cutting season is getting started? We always make sure workdays are focused on seed harvesting, cleaning and sowing until we are done. Brush cutting can be done in the winter. 


 

Seed sharing:


Do you trade seeds with other sites/stewards? If so, what are the reasons for doing that? We share seed on a huge scale as part of the Barrington Greenway Initiative. We also have shared seed with other groups outside the BGI.