Stop 4 — Sandstone Bluff Planting
By Jan Grainger, VOLUNTEER LAND STEWARD
On November 17, 2008, I loaded three big barrels onto a truck and drove them out to a field on the preserve in a section that is known as Tellabs Savanna (The Tellabs name results from a generous contribution). The field is nestled below spectacular sandstone outcrops so I call the area Sandstone Bluffs. The barrels were full of seed. Today was the day to plant some prairie. I drove the tractor round and round at “turtle“ speed until the hopper had shot out all of my precious seed on to the sandy soil. 110 pounds,105 species. I spent several hours planting special seeds by hand as well—poking porcupine grass tips into the sand or carefully “stepping in” (dropping a few seeds on to the ground and rubbing them into the soil with my feet) the lupine and violets.
I have now joined the club of Nachusa Grasslands Volunteer Stewards who have collected, weighed, dried, recorded, mixed and planted many pounds of those marvels of nature—seeds.
What a package of potential a seed is! Most of the prairie seeds I harvested weigh almost nothing but contain the genetic plans for a future. Housed within is a tiny embryo, a bit of stored nutrient and a protective coating. There is so much uncertainty
in a seed’s future. Will it germinate? Is it viable? Does it require freezing, or fire? Does it need to pass through an animal’s gut? Does it need battering by the wind and rain? Does it need fungal threads busting through its seed coat?
If a seed’s environment supplies what it needs it may send out root and shoot, but then what challenges does it face? Will there be a partnership with surrounding microbes or will it be consumed in the food chain? Will it succumb to competition from its many neighbors?
As a child I wore a mustard seed around my neck. (It was trapped in plastic I think) That necklace came from my mother and a short verse was included about the faith of a tiny mustard seed and moving mountains. It helped me develop a hopeful and positive outlook. Here at the Sandstone Bluffs, the seeds hold the secrets and I have the hope.
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