Seed collections: success and…..not

I was hoping to get two seed collections last week. One was successful, the other was not. But even the successful collection had its problems.
1. I learned the hard way: collecting wind dispersed seed on a windy day is not the best idea. The goal for this collection was Liatris punctata (dotted blazingstar or spotted gayfeather). I think that this small Asteracea may be one of my favorite plants here in Montana. The actual collection, however, was tedious. Some individuals had already completely dispersed, while others were just finishing up flowering. Depending on how ready the seed was, when you touched the plant, half the seed went zooming downwind. The paper bag in which the seed was going also really wanted to go traveling downwind. The second day of the collection I got smarter. We have a bunch of plastic jugs that have the tops cut off for when we collect berries. I put the paper bag into the jug, which was much easier to carry and much less likely to fly downwind. In spite of windy conditions and long hours collecting, the seed was successfully collected.
2. Limber pine would be a LOT of work to get 10,000 seed. For one, the population of limber pine that is here is an anomaly. The elevation here is lower than where you usually find limber pine. For this reason, individuals were scattered here and there among the more numerous Ponderosa Pine. I went out with Robert from the NRCS. He wanted to get some seed for his organization and I figured I would get a collection for Seed of Success while we were at it. Needless to say, it did not happen. Between the two of us, who were out there a good 5 hours, we got (estimated) 700 seed. Getting a collection of 10,000 would have taken days. It was a really good day, however. I got to work with and aide someone from another agency. I  also learned how to tell a ponderosa pine from a limber pine. By the end of the day, I could look at a cone on the ground and tell you which species it belonged to. We should have gone out a couple of weeks earlier; the cones had already dispersed the majority of their seed. We were happy when we found a cone with one or two seeds and extatic for the few cones that we got 6+ off of. The only downside to the day was how sticky the sap was. My hands were instantly attracted to pieces of grass, pine needles, small rocks, and the pine seed itself.

Kimberly, Miles City MT

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