NIPE Seed Shed Doings, February 2017
In December we met with the Northern Illinois Seed Exchange (NISE) a newly formed group of like-minded prairie enthusiasts. After the NISE meeting Jim, Laura and Barbara spent many hours going over the Species Conservation Plan charts.How could one month of the new year already be gone? I'd like to report that since the seed shed doors are frozen shut we've been snoozing by the hearth, but it's not so!
In December we met with the Northern Illinois Seed Exchange (NISE) a newly formed group of like-minded prairie enthusiasts. Brainchild of Ed Cope, restoration ecologist at the Natural Land Institute, the group consists of professionals working in the field of resource conservation and restoration. They first met mid-summer 2015 and compiled a list of desired species. All agreed to harvest what they could to share with members in December. A vote was taken to identify the 3 most desired species and Nathan Hill of the Rockford Park District offered to grow plugs to share with all this spring. At the December exchange we traded some of our seed for 38 species provided by others. It was the best swap meet ever!
After the NISE meeting Jim, Laura and Barbara spent many hours going over the Species Conservation Plan charts, deciding which species take priority, which should be propagated (if possible!), which can be purchased, etc. Only time will tell if we will be successful in producing sufficient seed to reintroduce these species into protected sites.
So, long before the snow started to fly we were making plans for the spring thaw and ultimate seeding into the new rare plant garden here at Lonetree. While the Prairiemeister and divas were poring over spreadsheets, Ed was cutting, daubing and piling up wood for later burning with his crew. Unfortunately he broke his wrist, but undaunted, he claims to love the fiberglass cast and keeps right on working. What a trooper!
I, too, have had my marching orders and planned accordingly. Currently the seeds of 8 species are chilling in the ‘fridge. Most will be given 60 days of cold, moist stratification before they go into the new garden beds. I am most excited about the Lilium philadelphicum (Wood Lily) seed that has been in damp sand since we received it from NISE.
I will be potting up the stratified seed soon and pampering the seedlings under grow lights until they can be planted out mid-to-late May.
Below are the three plants that are being grown for us. Chelone glabra (white turtlehead), Geum triflorum (prairie smoke) and the star of the show: Lespedeza leptostachya (prairie lespedeza), listed as federally endangered.
White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) Chelone—from Greek mythology, where a nymph named Chelone insulted the gods and was turned into a turtle and glabra—from the Latin word meaning ‘smooth' due to lack of hairs on the stems and leaves.
Chelone glabra (white turtlehead) is a wetland plant named for it's distinctive flower—shaped like a turtle poking out its head. The nectar attracts butterflies, bumblebees, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. It is an important host plant for the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly larva.
Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) Geum—from Latin—a plant with aromatic roots and triflorum—having three flowers on a stem.
Prairie lespedeza (Lespedeza leptostachya) on the right and its cousin, prairie bush clover (Lespedeza capitata) on the left for comparison. Note the narrow leaves and the delicate appearance of the plant compared to its more robust and better know companion.
Of course, we have also been busy with organizing the 30th Anniversary TPE prairie conference in partnership with the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation to be held March 4, 2017. If you haven't signed up yet, the deadline is Feb. 22! For conference info, go to the TPE website.
We'll be wearing name tags, so be sure to introduce yourself. We look forward to seeing all of you there!