By: Joseph Hager, AWS Stewardship Intern
It’s been a productive seed collection season! Fall is the time of year when many trees and plants produce a bounty of seeds in an effort to maintain and expand their presence in the ecosystem. The seeds vary greatly among the species, from large acorns to tiny seeds that can be carried off in the wind. While each species has developed unique mechanisms to help the spread of its seed, these traits are sometimes still not enough in the face of invasive species, their natural (native) enemies, and an environment plagued with man-induced stressors. Acorns face consumption by abundant populations of deer and squirrels, impervious surfaces where they cannot grow, cars and foot traffic that crush the seed and a wide array of threatening diseases and fungi. Later on, seedlings face competition from larger and more aggressive invasive plants, more deer, and so forth.
Andrew Sailo (left) and Anja-Tanke Hilary (right), both AWS Stewardship Interns, collected Arrow arum seeds at the wetlands of Bladensburg Waterfront Park last month.
In an effort to combat these issues and help our native plants and trees expand, AWS has been running fall seed collection outings as part of the Growing Native program of the Potomac Conservancy (http://growingnative.org/). Also, we have been collecting wetland plant seeds that will help us kickoff a great wetland planting season, starting next spring. Our purpose is to collect seed from a host of native plant species store them until winter has passed, or grow them indoors with the aid of school students and their teacher or turn them in to the Maryland state nursery on the eastern shore (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/nursery/). These seedlings are eventually distributed throughout the state and our watershed to be used in restoration and reforestation projects.
AWS started harvesting acorns from diferent oak tree species such as the Pin oak (Quercus palustris) (left) and the Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata) (right). The acorns were turned in to the state nursery on the eastern shore, next year we will get many seedlings for our resforestation program!
White oak (Quercus alba) acorns.
Our focus has been on native trees and wetland plants, all of them having innumerable benefits to wildlife, the soils and our waters. We have focused primarily on three wetland plant species: Arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and Wild rice (Zizania aquatica). Seeds from these species are collected by hand and stored moist until the spring, when they are planted with help from local schools and volunteers. We have collected seeds from over four oak tree species, including White oak (Quercus alba), Willow oak (Quercus phellos) and the Pin oak (Quercus palustris) and Southern red Oak (Quercus falcata).
Arrow arum (Peltandra virginica) seeds in the seedpod, and Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) seeds harvested from the wetlands of the Anacostia River.
The wetland plant seed harvest strated in late summer with the wild rice. Heyfa Khenissi (summer Stewardship Intern) collecting wild rice seeds at Old Port Park across the street from our headquarters.
With help from our interns Andrew Saizama Sailo, Joey Hager and Anja-Tanke Hilary, we have collected at least 9 lbs. of acorns, over 10 lbs. of Wild rice seed and about 8 lbs. of Pickerelweed seed over the past two months. The successes of this year have led to high hopes for next year, including an expanded program to increase our wetland planting and reforestation program. We hope to engage lots of volunteers and interns in this restoration effort. Native plant revegetation is vital in addition to the fight against invasive species which we are permanently involved in. These native species will help us in the restoration of the watershed’s ecosystems to a much cleaner, more biologically diverse and healthier state.
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