Autumn prairies are characterized by golden colors and abundant fluffy seeds. Goldenrods, asters, gayfeathers and many other species become especially conspicous this time of year because their light-colored seed heads stand out strongly against the rusty browns and yellows of the rest of the prairie.
We finished our annual seed harvesting last week and mixed seeds this week. Most of our seed harvest now goes toward overseeding of degraded remnant prairies because we’ve already converted almost all of the crop land we own. The focus on remnant prairie restoration significantly changes the way we harvest seeds. Rather than trying to harvest from 200-230 species to capture the entire range of plant diversity possible, we can focus on getting larger amounts from fewer species. It also eliminates the need to harvest from some of the more difficult to obtain species like violets, pale poppy mallow, and many sedges. Those species tend to persist in degraded prairies in the face of chronic overgrazing and broadcast herbicide application that takes out many larger and more show (and easier to harvest) species.