Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Seed Harvest

This was a rough year for the small winter annuals that live in the barrens.  These plants begin their growth in the late fall and flower in early spring.  They grow as long as sunlight is available, but this year, frequent snowstorms kept the ground covered for most of the winter. When winter finally ended, the plants had developed to just a fraction of their normal size.  Small plant size corresponds into a reduced seed crop.  For a plant that dies following seed production, fewer seeds likely mean a reduced population size the following year.  Several bad years in a row could eliminate a population.

My container grown plants came through the year in excellent shape.  Unlike their wild counterparts, these plants displayed the best the species can produce.  They proved an excellent example of how slightly different growing conditions can make a big difference in results.  The Leavenworthia uniflora shown here are as robust as any I have ever seen.

I grow plants in containers so that I can observe the daily changes in plant development.  A secondary goal in raising the more rare species is to produce seed that can be used to augment what is being produced naturally.  The original seed for these plants came from the barrens of Blue Jay Barrens.  Extra seed produced in containers is returned to the site of the wild population. 

The fruits are stuffed full of seeds.  This is about an average yield for the container grown plants.  Those in the barrens only produce four seeds at best.

I’ve been collecting seeds from the container for a week now.  The photo above illustrates a typical day’s harvest, a total of about 40 fruits.  I harvest the fruits just as they begin to split and expose the seeds.  I miss plenty, so there are more than enough seeds left in the container for next season.

Harvested fruits are left to dry for a few days.

When the seeds have completely dried, they are stored in an envelope until planting time.

Once I harvest the last of the seeds, I’ll take them out and scatter them on the barrens.  Leavenworthia seeds need a period of hot weather to allow them to break dormancy and germinate in the fall, so it’s important to get them planted while there is still plenty of summer yet to come.  I’ve also found that it’s best to plant seeds at the same time they would naturally be dropping from the plant.  That way they are naturally going to get the treatment they need for germination.  Hopefully, the coming winter will be more conducive to Leavenworthia growth and the barrens will produce a record crop next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment