Native Plant Seed Collection

The SPAWN team collected more than 10 pounds of grass seed as well as seeds from about 50 different species of plants from diverse habitats throughout the Lagunitas Creek Watershed. Seeds are only collected by volunteers and staff from areas where we have permits, and the seeds are used for local habitat restoration projects. SPAWN also welcomes and receives many native seed donations from our dedicated volunteers.

Once the seeds are collected they are first cleaned of the casing, and then stored in paper bags until they are ready to be treated, sown, or broadcasted at sites. Seeds may undergo treatment such as scarification or stratification, which are both processes that mimic the natural conditions the seeds need to experience prior to germination. Scarification procedures typically mimic processes that seeds go through while traveling through an animal’s digestive tract, while stratification gives seeds the number of chill hours that they require by placing seeds in a refrigerator. Seeds which don’t require these special treatments are stored until the proper time for them to be sowed or planted in the nursery.

This summer, SPAWN primarily collected native grass seeds, such as Purple Needlegrass and Blue Wildrye. Grass seeds are collected by brushing the stems and capturing the ripe seeds as they fall off. Grasses are important to use in riparian restoration projects because they grow quickly, provide a nice network of roots to enhance erosion control on slopes, offer shade protection, and provide habitat. This fall, SPAWN switched gears and planted many of these grass seeds at the former Redi-mix concrete plant and also continued to collect seeds to be planted out in the nursery this winter.

Seed collection is a year-round affair, as seeds need to be collected when they are ripe. While grasses are collected in the summer, redwood seeds are not ready for collection until November. Join us each Friday morning from 10 am to 2 pm for our hands-on nursery volunteer days, and come out this December on the 3rd and 10th  to learn about and help with native plant propagation.

Fun fact: Native Plant Nursery Manager Audrey’s favorite seeds ripe for collection this time of year include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), the inside of the berry looks like a snowflake , and California Nutmeg (Torreya californica), which has a soft cover that smells like a lychee fruit.

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