I have the pleasure of occasionally working with Professor Helen Young’s Plant Biology class, and she has a wonderful Community Service Project component to her class. For 10 hours or so in a semester, groups of students do some community service related to plant biology. We had one of the groups jump on the idea of the comment and do some seed collecting of natives. (More on the other groups later-I am always amazed and astounded at the dedication and high quality work I see from all the students I interact with.)(And they’re all smarter than to end a sentence in a preposition like the previous one I just wrote…)
Elissa Bullion, Catharina Grubaugh, Miriam Johnston, and Anne Runkel collected seeds from 29 native plants growing around Middlebury College. The work involved identification, collection, and quite a bit of research into the murky and conflicted field of seed germination and propagation. I have sitting in front of me a 15 page report on all the seeds collected and their germination requirements, along with a large envelope full of packets of seeds. Collection locations included Emily May’s pollinator garden at Bi-Hall, Ridgeline, the Garden of the Seasons, behind Ross and Atwater, the Atwater Roof, and the organic garden.
Local provenance is important in wildflowers, particularly in marginal species. The students were even smart and nice enough to collect seeds from several sources and several locations when possible, furthering the genetic pool. The plan is to grow the plants in the greenhouse this spring, probably in 50 count plug trays, and plant them out in the no-mow zones after our first cut in May.