rare team collects seeds for conservation

rare team partners with NCC to collect native grasses seeds, Central Big Creek Property, Norfolk County (Photo by Carleigh Pope)

rare team partners with NCC to collect native grasses seeds, Central Big Creek Property, Norfolk County (Photo by Carleigh Pope)

February 18, 2016 | by Carleigh Pope | 0 Comments

Staff from the rare Charitable Research Reserve (rare) were very excited to join hands with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) for another joint initiative to maintain a healthy natural environment in Ontario. Founded in 2001, rare is a more than 900-acre (360-hectare) land trust situated at the confluence of the Grand and Speed rivers in the heart of the Waterloo Region. The reserve is a beautifully and culturally significant landscape that includes trees more than 240 years old.

Rich in biodiversity, rare is home to an array of flora and fauna — some of which are significant regionally, provincially, nationally and even globally. Striving to preserve the land for future generations, rare focuses on conservation, research and education through ecological restoration, environmental programming and providing passive recreation opportunities to the surrounding community through eight kilometres of trails.

NCC staff came to the rare property in 2014 and assisted with trail closures near cliffs and through alvars. Throughout the years, groups have helped with closing unauthorized trails by planting native seedlings and allowing plants to re-establish where they had been previously trampled. Volunteer work days are a great example of how NCC and rare are partnering with like-minded organizations in the name of local land stewardship.

It was a warm day in early October when rare's staff journeyed down to the NCC's Central Big Creek Property in Norfolk County to collect native seeds. Guided by the knowledgeable NCC Conservation Biology Coordinator for Southwestern Ontario, Jill Crosthwaite, and local restoration expert Mary Gartshore, staff from all of rare’s departments got to enjoy the sunshine, learn about the identification of native grasses and learn about NCC's active restoration efforts.

<b>rare</b> volunteers listen in as Jill Crosthwaite from NCC gives an intro to the day's activities (Photo by Carleigh Pope)

rare volunteers listen in as Jill Crosthwaite from NCC gives an intro to the day's activities (Photo by Carleigh Pope)

To start the day off we were given a brief introduction to the property and its history. Looking out onto the sand plain, it was hard to imagine that this property was once in agricultural production. After an identification lesson, the team was equipped with seed bags and sent out to explore. Harvesting species like Canada wild rye, sand dropseed and kalm’s brome provided an excellent opportunity to take in views and see some of Norfolk County’s wildlife, like the eastern hog-nosed snake — a threatened species in Ontario.

Equipped with seed bags and ID knowledge, rare staff were sent out to explore! (Photo by Carleigh Pope)

Equipped with seed bags and ID knowledge, rare staff were sent out to explore! (Photo by Carleigh Pope)

The seed collected during the workday was earmarked for an upcoming restoration project on the Niagara Peninsula. Over the course of the visit, we collected enough grass seeds for the upcoming project in addition to fostering a lasting connection between our organizations. Workdays like this one are so much more than simply helping out another organization, because they offer a chance to connect with nature and remind us of the reasons we work in conservation.

This particular seed collection activity aimed to restore native plants for a local tall grass prairie. Seed collection is integral to the enhancement of native species and is also a fantastic strategy for optimizing your personal organic garden. Attending a seed swap is a great way to collect and trade organic seeds with your friends and neighbours. Seed swaps are great for educating the public on organic gardening and maintaining crop diversity.

You can practice sustainable gardening by collecting your own organic seeds and participating in a seed swap. Gardeners from around Waterloo Region came to rare to celebrate National Seed Swap Day on January 30. Dan Radolsav, rare's garden coordinator, kicked off the event with a short presentation on saving your own seeds. Then gardeners had the opportunity to meet other gardeners and exchange their seeds.

It’s going to be another great season at the Springbank Farm Community Gardens. Visit seeds.ca to find a seed swap near you.

Whether you are collecting seeds from your garden for organic gardening or from native grasses to restore natural habitats, seed harvesting and sharing is a great way to promote biodiversity in your own backyard!

About the Author

Carleigh Pope is the junior conservation ecologist at the rare Charitable Research Reserve.

Read more about Carleigh Pope.

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