by Sandy Garland, photos by Li-Shien Lee

WPP has been interested in and supportive of a large project that the Canadian Wildlife Federation is conducting: restoring butterfly habitat along the sides of roads and in rights of way, like hydro cuts. (See Creating pollinator habitat from scratch and Help the Monarchs)

If you visit our web site often, or follow WPP on Facebook, you’ll have noticed references to this project and events linked to it. In September, CWF held an all-day workshop on identifying native species and techniques for collecting and storing their seeds. They are also airing a webinar this Thursday (December 12) – one in a series on Creating Pollinator Habitat.

On October 20, CWF invited network members to help collect seeds for next year’s test plots in a continuation of the same project, so we jumped at the chance to spend a beautiful fall day outdoors with friends.

WPP members and other friends of the Canadian Wildlife Federation meet to collect seeds for creating pollinator habitat in 2020.

Jennifer Line introduced the project and described the target species for the day: Grass-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum), and Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Recognizing these plants when the leaves are shrivelled and no colourful flowers are left to provide clues can be tricky, so we had to learn the shape of these plants and what the seed heads looked like.

It’s useful to find an area where the target species is abundant – and that’s also a requirement for collecting: never take more than 10% of the seeds and only when there are at least 50 plants of the target species.

After studying both Panicled Asters and Grass-leaved Goldenrods in their dry state, we set off with confidence to collect seeds in the paper bags Jen gave us.

Grass-leaved Goldenrod or Panicled Aster – easy to differentiate when they are blooming, but now?

Luckily, Common Milkweeds have distinctive seed pods and we learned some tricks to release the seeds without ending up with a bag of fluff. Choose pods that have split open, but have not yet released any seeds. Hold the pod closed and wiggle it so that the seeds get rubbed against the inside of the pod and come loose from the fluff; then open the pod, hold the pointed end tightly, and pour out the seeds.

All in all, an interesting and fun afternoon. Among other things, I learned the names of two new-to-me sedges: the Ovales group and Carex crinita. We found some Rough-stemmed Goldenrods (Solidago rugosa) and a few Heart-leaved Asters (Symphyotrichum cordifolium). And we collected thousands of seeds of the target species.

Leaving some Common Milkweed seeds to grow next year’s milkweeds for Monarchs.

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