This is the time of year we plan to gather seed from most of the prairie plants. It’s a pretty easy task to accomplish and is an excellent opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the fall. Most grass seeds can be easily stripped from the stalk, but not all forbs species are as easy. Some have pods, some have heads which cling tightly to the seed, others have parachutes that help them fly away.
You can gather them into empty plastic milk jugs which have had their tops cut off and their handles attached to your waist by a belt. Or, you can gather them into paper grocery bags. Plan to store them in the garage, but up off the floor until they are completely dry.
Then when the plants are dry enough to start cleaning, wearing gloves, start breaking the seeds free from heads and pods that haven’t loosened the seed on their own. Some you can just strip off on your own. Some like the Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), you’ll need to roll off on a screen.
Here are a couple of resources to help you find the best way to gather seed. Enjoy!
Gathering Seed by Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd
Collecting Advice by Wild Ones St Louis Chapter
Wildflowers and Weeds in Their Final Beauty, a book by Jane Embertson
If you have extra seed, plan to share with your fellow Wild Ones at your local chapter’s Seed Exchange or with your extended family or friends, or your next door neighbors.
And, as you gather milkweed seed this fall and find you have extra, plan to send the pods on to Monarch Watch. Be sure to read the guidelines on how to handle the seed. If you live in Ohio, you can share your milkweed seed through the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative. See also Help TPE Collect Milkweed Seed.