Harvesting Wildflower Seeds

Butterfly Milkweed Seed

Gallery Of Wildflower Seeds

The Long Island Conservancy has begun a wildflower seed harvesting initiative in Sayville that we would like to see emulated in communities across Long Island. On October 10th, 2022, some dozen Sayville HS students from SWEEP, the school’s environmental club, as well as several from The Greater Sayville Civic Association’s Junior Civic came by to harvest various native wildflower seeds from a yard in Sayville with the goal of creating wildflower beds around Sayville by germinating and planting these seeds in the spring.

See also: The Suburban Lawn Must Die

Courtesy Matt Juvet

The wildflower seed harvest was a lot of fun, and quite successful

We gathered seeds from twenty one different kinds of wildflowers and grasses:

Purple Cone Flower, Butterfly Milkweed, Boneset, Black Eyed Susan, Hibiscus, Swamp Milkweed, Blazing Star, Black Cohosh, Jersey Tea, Little Blue Stem, Big Blue Steam, Yellow Baptisia, Joe Pye, Wild Blue Lobelia, Large Leaf Aster, New York Ironweed, Wild Bergamot, Snake Root, White Aster, Canada Goldenrod, Seaside Goldenrod.

We still have some sorting and drying to do. Our winter project will be learning how to properly germinate and plant each of these wildflowers. We also will determine where best we could plant these native wildflower beds in and around Sayville. We have already committed to several plantings — at The Library, at The Chamber House, and at Meadowcroft. We have a good supply of plants as it stands, having received a donation from Bethpage State Park of native wildflowers.

Working with SWEEP and the Sayville Junior Civic, we will be creating a local seed bank for the library, a practice we encourage in each community. If the goal is to return native plants, then libraries are ideally suited to distribute them. A library of seeds, all categorized.

The Conservancy has had some come forth to volunteer indoor growing or greenhouse space for this project. We are also reaching out to our native plant growing friends. What people knew generally and intuitively for generations is now knowledge we need to reacquire. How do you grow a particular plant? We forgot that, all our folk knowledge. Throughout, Sayville High School with SWEEP is committed to this community effort.

I can only attest to the fact that again and again as I have strolled this property day by day, and had various groups come to tour — garden clubs, civic associations, municipalities, environmental groups — I have seen Nature unfailingly enchant people. Even in this .44 acre “wood,” there has emerged so much beauty, and in such a short time.

We encourage you to Bring Nature Home, as Prof. Douglas Tallamy would have it, to introduce local nature right in your yards, to reimagine one’s relationship with it as integral. We, properly, share this earth with our fellow creatures. Let us then create habitat for local creatures even as we have our houses and yards. It is not that hard to do.

Nature is the grand architect here. You will not need water beyond first establishing your natives. As natives, they are drought resistant. You don’t need to fertilize. Natives thrive on sandy, nutrient poor soil. Think pitch pine and oak. As for pesticides, why? If you want to kill a biome, kill your yard, spray away. There are natural ways to deal with mosquitoes (BTi, dunks) and ticks (birds that eat them, for starters)

What if you lived in a world without the constant whine of machinery? What if you just decided to “leave the leaves,” knowing that they are crucial to soil health? Why all the effort to have an army with gas powered blowers coral those leaves into plastic bags to take to a landfill when the best and cheapest thing to do is absolutely nothing? Why do we make work for ourselves and poison ourselves and Nature in the bargain? We are collectively sleepwalking, consuming as we have been taught, wasting everything.

Beyond all that is that fact that having your yard full of buzzes and chirps, to have your yard in synchrony with Nature is good for the soul. All the initial planting at my home (and now world headquarters of The Long Island Conservancy ) began June 21st, 2020, at a small window within the first wave. It was only then that we could plant anything.

I offer then a backward glance in picture form, as the invasive and non-native strewn suburban yard was stripped clean and reborn as a place where Native plants could flourish once more. We always seek to answer the question: “What would be properly here if we weren’t?” Nature has a way of telling us, and it is of course an ongoing conversation / competition among them.

You say you want an evolution?

Within two and a half years, this yard has produced enough seed to basically recreate itself 20X over, so long as we know how to grow and plant.

Seed Jars

It was a very successful harvest. Now we need to follow it through to the Spring! SWEEP and The Junior Civic came by on Columbus Day. They are due back Election Day to complete the seed harvest.

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