Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Collecting Purple Coneflower Seed

The Purple Coneflower in my Coneflower Management Area produced an abundance of seed this year. Conditions were perfect for seed collection. The remnants of a morning frost softened the seed head so I could grab the spear-like bracts without the sharp points breaking off beneath the skin of my palms. I later had to spread the seeds out to dry, but that was easier than tweezing a bunch of spines out of my hand.

There were enough plants growing in this small area that I was able to collect about a pint of seed. That’s not bad for a site that just a few years ago held only a few blooming plants and a lot of spindly basal leaf clusters.

The plants aren’t quite as easy to see now as they were when in bloom. I had to get right into the stand before I could see the seed heads sitting atop the tall stalks.

It only took a couple of minutes to strip the seed heads of their bounty. Half of the seed I collected was immediately scattered into some nearby openings. I’m hoping that five years from now this coneflower site will have blooming plants stretching another 150 feet along the base of the hillside.

I always sacrifice a few seeds to make sure that they developed properly. Every seed I checked was full and ready to grow.

I wasn’t the first seed collector to visit the coneflower patch. I scared a Goldfinch away from this seedhead as I walked into the clearing. I usually feel guilty about taking the bird’s food, but I never take it all. I left about half of the seed heads in place to be eaten or scattered naturally. If the finches come up to the house, I’ll be glad to replace the pilfered coneflower seed with some high quality sunflower seed.