Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nodding Wild Onion Project

My ongoing project to expand the Nodding Wild Onion population at Blue Jay Barrens is continuing with some signs of success.  I wrote about this project two years ago and am happy to report that things have improved since then.  If I can get through this year without disaster, there should be some excess seed to return to the wild.

Using some of the little bit of seed I’ve managed to produce, I was able to grow a few healthy plants in this large pot.  During their two years of growth, these plants have been attacked by Chipmunks, Squirrels, Skunks, Deer, Wild Turkey and Cottontails.  A chicken wire enclosure has greatly reduced the number of assaults.

Most of the animals were not interested in the onion plants.  They just wanted to dig in the pots.  The moist, high quality soil in the pot was just perfect for hunting grubs or making a nest or burying sunflower seeds.  Fortunately the excavations didn’t uproot any of the plants.

These onions are benefiting by growing conditions that are better than anywhere else at Blue Jay Barrens.  The soil is a compost-sand mix and water is freely applied.  The onions, along with a couple of volunteer prairie plants, grow better than they ever would on their own.

I’m not sure of the plant count in the pot.  The leaves come from three distinct clumps and a total of 14 flower stalks have emerged.

Each flower stalk has risen to an impressive 24 inch height.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing that the flowers get pollinated. Bumblebees commonly visit Nodding Wild Onion flowers, but the big bees seem deterred by the chicken wire barrier.  I may just go ahead and have at it with the pollination brush just to be safe.

The Prairie Garden population of onions has produced five flower stalks.  Except for occasional waterings, these plants grow under more natural conditions.

Nodding Wild Onions are not endangered, rare or uncommon, except at Blue Jay Barrens.  I could easily purchase enough onion seed to blanket the entire property.  My decision not to bring in any plant material from outside sources comes solely from my personal idea of how the property should be managed.  As far as I know, the native plant population currently found here is from naturally occurring species that historically survived on this property.  It’s those plants that I would like to see thrive.  Happily I don’t have to answer to any Boards, Committees, Supervisors or Public Opinion.  My management decisions are implemented without argument.  There are certainly some wonderful perks associated with managing your own property.

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