Frank Landis' Blog


Rare Plant Survey Reports 1: Fiesta Island and Silver Strand Elementary
August 16, 2011, 6:49 pm
Filed under: California Native Plants, Real Science, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

This spring, the CNPSSD rare plant survey committee surveyed dune plants on beaches up and down the coast. I’ve been putting our work together in reports that were sent to the agencies, and I’m posting them here as I finish them.

Here are the first two, from Fiesta Island and from Silver Strand Elementary.

Silver Strand Elementary Rare Plant Survey Report

Fiesta Island Rare Plant Survey Report

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Seed Ball, one year later
August 2, 2011, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Fun in August!

Last August and September, the CNPSSD email list hosted a long discussion about seed “bombs,” or rather seed balls. At the September meeting, a man came forward to provide his seed balls free to CNPSSD as a demo. They reportedly contained the seeds of ten native plant species.

I have a dish on my patio where I grow native annuals, so I dropped the seed ball in that dish. My first experiences with it are chronicled in a previous blog entry. Now it’s eleven months later, and I decided to end the project.

As can be seen in the pictures below, there are two species now growing in that dish: some sort of italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima). The ball also grew a California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) in the spring, and it flowered and died.

Seed ball finale. The left picture is the dish, the right picture shows the remnants of the seed ball with the plants growing out of it. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Today I took the pictures, ended the experiment by ripping out the weeds, roots and all (they’d rooted through the pot), and planted a Dudleya pulverulenta that needed a new location.

This experiment has a couple of important learning points: one is that seed source is critical. Even if the seed ball maker used what he thought were nothing but California native plants, the evidence unequivocally says there were weed seeds in that ball. The second is that only two plants will grow from a ball at a time (the poppy came up and died before the grass grew). If there were 100 seeds in that ball, then 97% failed.

For do-it-yourself seedball makers: Do realize that you can spread weeds with seed balls. If you insist on making seed balls for a project, ideally you should collect your own seed, assuming you can identify the plants correctly. A second choice is to buy pure seed from a reputable dealer. Good dealers will tell you how much weed seed is in their mix. That number is rarely zero, despite everyone’s best efforts.

If you buy a packet of “wildflower seed,” for your seed ball mix, you have to realize that “WILDFLOWER” is an industry term for a certain group of annual plants, some of which are weeds in California. You actually have to look at the species list to see what is in the packet, and to make sure they are all California natives. If reading such a list perturbs you, don’t use wildflower seed packets.

It is ALWAYS possible for weed seed to get mixed in, simply by accident. If you’re not planning on weeding a site after you seed ball it, my advice is not to throw seed balls. We have enough weeds in this county already, and we don’t need people spreading more.