Seed-based restoration is one of several methods used to establish or enhance restorations. This method is widely used in prairie restorations in the midwestern United States, and in grasslands world wide. Seed-based restoration is especially popular with organizations that place an emphasis on local ecotype origin, and diversity. Seed-based restoration also requires good organization and large numbers of volunteers to collect, clean, and sow the seeds.
“Collecting seed from remnants near the restoration site has several advantages, the most significant one being that the origin of the seeds is known. Given the proximity to the restoration site, the plants and their seeds are likely to be of a local ecotype that is adapted to the site conditions.” (Howell, Harrington, and Glass. 2012). The use of seed does have drawbacks, including the time required for germination and establishment, as well as often high rates of loss due to predation.
Other disadvantages of the seed-based approach include scarcity of high quality remnant sites from which to collect all of the target species. Seed availability may also be low due to weather conditions that impact flowering and seed production. For example, either drought or wet years can influence seed production of different species in different ways.
There are other disadvantages to collecting seed from remnants. It may be difficult to collect any (or enough) seed because: 1)the species of interest may be widely scattered across a large landscape; 2) of a low or hidden stature; or 3) have explosive seeds that disperse before the collector arrives. These facts of prairie life may sometimes make collection of adequate quantities difficult or impossible.
To overcome these constraints some organizations that plant hundreds of acres at a time supplement wild collected seed with that collected from plants grown under controlled and tended conditions in nursery settings. This approach gives them a fighting chance to produce adequate quantities of seed to meet their restoration targets.
Although collecting native seed from remnants is enjoyable and easy to learn, it does require guidance and knowledgeable help from local experts (above) who can identify the species, know the location of local ecotypes, determine if the seeds are ripe enough to collect, and ensure that the local population are not over-collected.
Black, M.R., E.J. Judziewicz, 2009. Wildflowers of Wisconsin and The Great Lakes Region. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI
Howell, E.A., J.A. Harrington, and S.B. Glass. 2012. Introduction to Restoration Ecology. Island Press. Washington, D.C.
Rock, H.W. 1974. Prairie Propagation Handbook. Boerner Botanical Gardens, Whitnall Park. Milwaukee County Park System.