Collect prairie seed to start a natives garden

Big blue stem, compass plant, wild white indigo – these beautiful prairie plants could be a part of your landscape.

You could get the seed for free by participating in Dickinson County Conservation’s seed collecting program 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the nature center in Okoboji.

“We talk a lot about planting natives, but there’s not a lot of avenues to getting seed,” said environmental education coordinator Bryanna Kuhlman, so this is a good way to help people start their own prairie gardens.

Photo of big bluestem

Big bluestem

If weather cooperates Oct. 20, Kuhlman will lead a tour through the Kenue Park prairie, showing people how to identify plants and how to collect seed. The seed that is ready to collect at that time will most likely be from common milkweed, big bluestem, compass plants and wild white indigo.

(Five plants to start your prairie garden.)

Kuhlman said these species are beautiful plants.

“Milkweed is good to help monarch populations, because milkweed leaves are the only food for monarch caterpillars, and their flowers are also good nectar sources for other butterflies and bees,” she said.

Compass plants are a good autumn nectar source for pollinators; wild white indigo is beneficial for bumblebees, and native landscapes need a variety of grasses, such as big bluestem.

Program participants would be welcome to take home seed to start their own native garden plot, or they can also leave the seed with the Dickinson County Nature Center for use in native plantings throughout the county.

Photo of a honeybee on a flower

The approximately 90-minute program is open to all ages.

“Even small kids can run around in the prairie and enjoy the day,” Kuhlman said.

If the weather does not cooperate the day of the program, Kuhlman will have an indoor, adult-oriented program about native plant seed dispersal.

(Plant native species instead of exotics!)

“Milkweed disperses by wind,” she said. “The grasses are more of gravity dispersal. Wild white indigo pods split open and disperse the seed when they split. The reason they do that is they want to build successful colonies, so they have evolved to move. If they all dispersed by gravity, they would fall directly below the parent.”

The seed collecting program is the final program in the 2018 Pollinator Education Series, but other free programs for all ages continue through fall and winter. Visit our programs page to see a full schedule of programs or call 712-336-6352 for more information.

The Dickinson County Nature Center’s road name has also changed. You can find the nature center at 22785 Nature Center Road in Okoboji.

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