Since I last wrote, we, the SOS interns at the New England Wildflower Society, have travelled from Rhode Island to Maine, seen salt marshes, sand dunes, and bogs, endured clouds of mosquitoes, tick infested fields, and heat upwards of 90 degrees, AND made our first three collections of seeds! To say it has been a busy month would be an understatement! Even with the not always ideal conditions (re: swarms of mosquitoes), collecting seeds is such a rewarding job.
Our first collection was made last week out on Cape Cod in Harwichport, MA. We collected Juncus gerardii, Black Grass, in what seemed like a very large salt marsh. But, this salt marsh was nothing compared to the massive one we found in Rhode Island on Wednesday. Again, we were looking to make a collection of Juncus gerardii. This seemed like a daunting task when we arrived as the salt marsh was large, and simply covered in Black Grass. But, the four of us interns managed to complete the task in a couple of hours, collecting upwards of 1 million seeds from over 3000 plants across 4 acres of salt marsh. Below are 2 pictures of the salt marsh, a picture of the seeds, and a picture of the bag full of capsules containing seeds.
Our next collection was quite the opposite. While still at Sachuest, we found a population of Carex annectens, or Yellowfruit sedge. With ripe seeds, we were very excited to add this species to our collection list. From the boardwalk on the meadow, it appeared we only had maybe 30 plants, though, which does not reach the necessary 50 plants.
With some bushwhacking off into the meadow, we found a population of close to 300 or 400 plants, allowing us to collect from more than 50 individuals and get more than 10,000 seeds in a sustainable manner. While I bushwhacked looking for these seeds, I got covered in 8 dog ticks, and I disturbed a 3-point buck! This collection was quite the opposite of our last collection, as we really had to do the math to ensure that we were finding the appropriate number of plants and seeds. Below, is a picture of the plant and the seeds.
Our last collection of the week was another daunting collection. This time, we were at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, MA. Parker River is a beautiful site with gorgeous sand dunes, a beach that is nesting habitat for Least Terns and Piping Plovers, and a huge salt marsh. This time around, we were collecting on the sand dunes. We collected Hudsonia tomentosa, False Beach Heather, from these dunes. As we walked along the ridge of the dunes, we saw at least 6 Least Terns, a bird I’ve never seen before!
The Hudsonia on these dunes covers at least 10 acres, is quite dense, and only grows to maybe 6 inches tall, making for quite the collection. I collected from over 700 plants, leading to some very sore legs from squating down to the plants! This collection was challenging, as it was a very hot day, and there were so many plants, but the dunes are such an amazing habitat. Sometimes, when I would stop to look around, I could hardly believe that I was on the East Coast.
Some of the things I have learned thus far in this internship:
- Plants. I know so many more plants, but don’t be fooled, once you think you know them, they trick you into thinking you don’t.
- Appreciation. Collecting seeds and looking at plants really allows you to stop and look at the small things and appreciate the places where you are. What I would once just look at as some grass, is now many different species of sedges, grasses, and rushes.
- Optimism. Sometimes, to get through a tough day in the field, you just have to be optimistic that maybe this heat or the mosquitoes will go away (even if deep down you know its not going to happen in the near future!)
- Collecting seeds is a very meditative process, that is really quite wonderful.
Julia Rogers, New England Wildflower Society, SOS East.