As one of the oldest prairie restorations in the Midwest, the Schulenberg Prairie stands as an Arboretum favorite place for many, including Cindy Crosby. Crosby is a volunteer steward supervisor for the Schulenberg Prairie, where she assists with the Arboretum’s seed collection efforts.
Seed collection is crucial to the continuing restoration, helping increase the quantity and diversity of species in the prairie. As a seed collector, Crosby walks through the tall grasses and other plants, looking for seeds that are mature. She also tests seeds for dryness, harvesting half of them and leaving the rest to reproduce naturally.
“I look at these small, dried-up, insignificant sprinkles and imagine compass plant flowers towering 8 feet tall or the first deep purple prairie violets opening after the spring burn,” said Crosby. “Every time I collect seeds, I feel I am investing in the future of the landscape of home–the Illinois Tallgrass Prairie, which used to cover millions of acres of our state.”
Seed collection efforts at the Arboretum began a few years back, led by Kurt Dreisilker, manager of natural resources, and Mark McKinney, natural resources technician.
“The volunteers are amazing,” said McKinney, who organizes and invites volunteers for this project. “They are the eyes of the prairie and let me know what is in bloom and what is going to seed, so we collect the seed at the right time.”
If you are interested in volunteering with seed collection, contact the Volunteer Office for current opportunities.