Saint or sinner sowing wild seeds?

Steven Lyle Noffsinger snoffsin at
Sat Mar 11 00:15:36 EST 1995


Don't get your blood pressure up, help is on the way.  I am working on a 
Ph.D. in plant breeding/genetics at Auburn University and have a 
strong background in Horticulture and Agronomy.  I have also probably taken 
every Ecology class which is available here, including a new course 
Plant-Animal Interactions (Dr. R.S. Boyd, Botany-Micro., and Dr. J.H. 
Cane, Entomology, who is fairly well-known among the bee circles).  We've 
had several interesting and related discussions of journal articles  
(pollination ecology, seed dispersal, mutualisms, communities and their 
interactions, etc.) throughout this quarter (now ending), so I feel as 
qualified as anyone to answer your questions.  (Incidentally, the Bozos 
who flamed you, obviously have boring lives and nothing better to do 
with their time!). ;)

> Is the
> collection of native seed from parkland to re-establish native plants
> elsewhere actually harmful or beneficial.

If the plant is rare or endangered, I would suggest not collecting it, 
both from a reproductive and legal point of view.  Of course, if a new 
shopping mall or highway (city expansion and development, some real 
culprits in the reduction of native flora), by all means, collect a few
seeds.  Most likely, that seed would not end up in a productive spot (and 
if it did, it would be sprayed with a jillion pesticides to grow a 
picture-perfect landscape).

If the plant is not rare or endangered, by all means, collect some seed.  
As mentioned previously by someone, a low percentage of native seed will 
make it to maturity.  Let's take some of the numbers used.  If one 
plant produces 100 seeds/year and a 20% success rate (sounds a little 
high to me, for native flora), it's producing 20 seeds/year.  If you 
randomly take 15 seeds from this plant that leaves 85 x .2 = 17 seeds 
Remember, the majority of the seeds which you pick, will have the same 
odds of finding a suitable native habitat to grow in (if left to nature), as 
the total 100.

I assume that you are not taking all of your seed from one plant or area (to 
maintain genetic diversity) (I give you a lot more credit than most 
folks, especially with your degrees and the extensive search that you've 
gone through).  This will ensure that the effect of seed removal is 
minimal and should satisfy any die-hard "don't touch the native seedbank" folks.

As for the animals which might miss the seed (another previous message), 
they'll get over it.  It's not as if you're harvesting every native seed 
(your lawn isn't that big ;)   )  for these species, year after year.  
And most likely, the majority of the granivores have other species to 
munch on.  In the long run, you will probably increase the available food 

Your efforts are commendable and I wish that more folks would cautiously 
proceed in the direction that you are going.  We waste more time and 
money on the fertilizers and pesticides in our home lawns and even 
roadsides in the U.S., and for what?  A picture perfect lawn that usually 
excludes all native flora of a region.  If your efforts are very 
successful and other folks are interested, you might give them seed 
(I seriously doubt that the entire city will go to native landscapes, at 
least overnight).  Good luck!

Steve Noffsinger

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