Nachusa Grasslands is about 3,000 acres,located near Franklin Grove, Illinois, in Leeand Ogle Counties.
Nachusa Grasslands is owned and managed byThe Nature Conservancy, a private, non-profitcharitable organization.The mission of The Nature Conservancy is topreserve the plants, animals, and naturalcommunities that represent the diversity of life onEarth by protecting the lands and waters theyneed to survive.
The preserve is celebrating its 25thAnniversary in 2011. Photo courtesy of Wes Gibson
Since 1986, 32 tracts have beenprotected, ranging from 10 acres to to 1,000 acres.
Nachusa contains many remnants of rare prairies, Photo courtesy of Hank and Becky Hartman
. . . the Nachusa staff and volunteers are helpingto restore our natural heritage. Photo courtesy of Hank and Becky Hartman
We are replanting prairie habitats in thefarmland between the remnants tocreate a sustainable natural landscape.
Volunteers play an essential role inmaintaining and restoring the preserve.
Some volunteers serve as Stewards, managingspecific units on the preserve.
Others help out wherever and wheneverthey are needed.
Volunteer Activities• Brush Clearing December to May• Weed Removal May to August• Seed Picking, Processing, and Planting May to November• Prescribed Burns October and November March and April
Work days coordinated by Stewards take placeevery Saturday morning throughout the year.
Training and equipment are provided for allvolunteer work days – no experience orexpertise is required.
Fire Crews go through extensive training and arehighly supervised.
Fire helps to promote species diversity bycontrolling invasive weeds, shrubs and trees.
Fire also stimulates new plant growthand returns nutrients back to the soil.
Nachusa’s plant inventory includes atleast 855 species.
Forbs bloom from May to September andare harvested from spring through late fall.
General Seed Readiness Criteria• Seed coats changing from green to brown• Seed heads fluffed out• Earliest formed seeds dropping• Stems dry and usually brown – no longer receiving nourishment from roots• Seeds in pods dark and hard
Plantain Pussy Toes(Antennaria plantaginifolia) Blooms in May
Pick Pussy Toes in May when the seedheads have fluffed out.
Arrow-Leaved Violet (Viola sagittata) Blooms in May
Seed Picking Equipment• Plastic buckets• Straps can be attached for two-handed picking• Seed pouches worn around waist (Jim-Gem)• Polypropylene bags• Paper sacks• Fiskars pruning snips• Victorinox Rose-Grape Gatherer or Swiss Army Harvester Garden Tool; Fiskars Cut and Hold snips• Heavy duty garden shears• Leather gloves to protect fingers and prevent blisters
Prairie Smoke is one of the rarest andmost beautiful plants at Nachusa.
Pick Prairie Smoke by hand in late May or earlyJune when the seed heads are very loose.
Shooting Star(Dodecantheeon meadia) Blooms in May
Pick Shooting Star in July when the seed heads arebeginning to open at the top and tiny seeds fall outwhen the head is held upside down.
Cream Wild Indigo(Baptisia leucophaea) Blooms in May Photo courtesy of Hank and Becky Hartman
Pick Cream Wild Indigo in July or August whenmost of the seed pods are partially black.
Cream Wild Indigo may be infested with weevils, butthere are usually a few seeds present in most pods.
Hoary Puccoon(Lithospermum canescens ) Blooms in May
Pick Hoary Puccoon in June when theseeds are brown.
False Toadflax(Comandra umbellata) Blooms in May
Pick False Toadflax in June when theseeds are hard little balls.
Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)Blooms in May and June Photo courtesy of Hank and Becky Hartman
Pick Spiderwort in July when the pods areturning yellow and haven’t all popped open.
Thimbleweed(Anemone cylindrica) Blooms in June
Pick Thimbleweed in September when the seedhead has started to fluff and gives no resistancewhen stripping by hand.
Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) Blooms in June
Pick Coneflower in August when the seed head iscompletely black and several inches of stem belowthe seed head are also black.
Wear gloves when picking or processingConeflower, as the seed heads are very spiky.
Nachusa is well-known for itsConeflower, Leadplant, and Coreopsisabundance.
Keeping Species Separate• Generally we pick just one species at a time.• We keep records of how much of each species we pick and cant do that if we mix species.• We also store the seeds separately so that we can make different mixes at planting time.• We do pick multiple species at once if we put the seeds in separate bags in our buckets or pouches.
A view of the prairie from the Barn window. Photo courtesy of Kirk Hallowell
Seed Mixes• We plant some species individually, but generally we put seeds in a seed mix before planting.• For our most recent planting, we made three seed mixes – mesic, dry mesic, and general.• If we have any questions what mix to put a species in, we refer to Swenk and Wilhelm.• To mix the seeds, we put down a large tarp, pour all the seeds onto the tarp, mix them well using rakes and shovels, and then shovel the seeds back into the barrels.
Barrels of mixed seeds ready to plant. Photo courtesy Hank and Becky Hartman
Restoration Planting Methods• Harvest corn in September or October.• Burn corn stubble in early November.• Spread seed mixes – general mix over the entire planting after November 15 and before the ground freezes.• Harrow the field.• Many seeds require exposure to cold temperatures for a certain period of time, and the freezing and thawing of the ground prepares the seeds for germination in the spring.• If you wait and plant in March or April then many of the seeds will not germinate until the following year.
Lime spreader for planting seeds. Photo courtesy Hank and Becky Hartman
Hand broadcasting and harrowing. Photo courtesy Hank and Becky Hartman
Overseeding Methods• Overseeding in November or December is preferred, especially if the area is burned first.• After a spring burn (March or April) – only best if there is a heavy thatch buildup and cannot do a fall burn.• Plant as you pick – violets – pick, let dry for a week so they dehisce, and then plant the next week.• Porcupine grass – pick in the morning and plant that afternoon.• Follow natures pattern by planting at the same time that the seeds would naturally fall from the plant.• This can work well, especially if you burned the prior spring or fall because there should not be a lot of thatch build up.
Where to Collect Seeds• Seeds should be picked as close to the restoration as possible – 25 to 50 mile radius.• The genotype should be better adapted to the location of your restoration.• Most of our seeds are picked at Nachusa.• Other options – railroad and road right of ways and hillsides.• Always obtain permission of landowners or public area managers before collecting.
Keeping Seed Records• GPS works well for tracking the exact locations of your seed sources.• Keep seed diaries that record the locations and dates that you picked a species.• Detailed records will help you remember where and when to pick in subsequent years.