My Favorite Place: Prairie seed picking

Assistant Resource Manager

Volunteers pick prairie seed by hand. (Michelle Thomas)

Shorter days and cooler nights may be the first signs of fall. However, it isn’t truly autumn until I have spent a few days in the prairies collecting seed. The colors in the prairies are truly spectacular and something I look forward to every year. Being in the prairie and seeing the variety of colors among big blue stem grasses or just the smell of the prairie in the fall is very special.

Every year the resource management department works to collect the valuable Darby Plains Prairie seed from the restored prairies at Battelle Darby Creek and Prairie Oaks Metro parks. The seeds collected help us expand the prairies at the parks. As the summer draws to a close, the first plants to begin to set seed are crown beard and purple bergamot.

Goldfinches love to eat sunflower and other prairie flower seeds. (Christopher Brinkman)

Purple coneflower also begins to provide seeds and you can hear the American goldfinches trying to collect as many as they can. Not only do we collect seeds by hand, but we also use machines to make the job easier. Using an old combine and a brome attached to a tractor, we can harvest many bushels of seed each year.

But that’s not the end of the story. The seed needs to be dried and cleaned. That means it needs to be spread out on a concrete floor in a barn and turned daily. Once it’s dry, Metro Parks staff manually sift the seed to remove large pieces of chaff that would clog the seed drill. This process is all worth it to have the beautiful rich rainbow of colors throughout the summer and fall in our prairies. Join us for a hike or volunteer to help us with our prairie seed collecting.