Greenspace: Collect seeds for State Forest Nursery project

August 27, 2018

Although summer is almost over, there’s still plenty of time this fall to take a hike and get outdoors. But while you’re hiking, you could be helping collect the seeds for future Minnesota forests.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is starting its annual seed and cone collection for the State Forest Nursery, and the department is offering to purchase seeds from anyone who has an interest in helping with the collection.

The rules, according to State Forest Nursery Supervisor Katrina Somes, are fairly simple.

“You can collect, obviously, from your own property,” Somes said. “We prefer not to get seeds from yard trees because they’re subject to different environmental factors … so if people are able, we prefer to get species from a wooded lot.”

If you don’t have wooded property, no worries. There’s also the option to collect from state lands. Just be sure to check with your area forestry office first to find out which state forests in your area are open for collecting. In cases concerning federal or non-state lands, Somes said the best approach is to contact property owners.

In fact, Somes stresses that everyone should contact their area office before they begin collecting to make sure they know what species are being collected from their area and what quotas the field offices can accept. You should also contact the field office to find out what dates and times they will be accepting seeds.

In Southeast Minnesota, the species being collected include red oak, white oak, swamp white oak, bur oak, black walnut, butternut, shagbark hickory and bitternut hickory. The first of these, white oak and bur oak, are ripening now and can be collected through September, while others could be collected through October or even as late as December. To find details on how to identify and harvest these seeds, visit the Nursery website at www.mndnr.gov/nursery.

State Forester Chad Gelner, who supervises the collection in Southeast Minnesota, says seeds will be purchased for anything between $5 and $120 per bushel, depending on the kind of seed and the quota of bushels passed down from the nursery.

After the collection is finished, the seeds will be sent to the Badoura State Forest Nursery in Akeley, Minn., where they’ll be germinated and used to grow future seedlings for in-state reforesting projects. The advantage of collecting the seeds locally, Gelner says, is that the resulting seedlings will be genetically adapted to the region’s environment, making them stronger and hardier.

“We’re looking for seeds as local as possible because this is where they’re eventually going to be planted,” he said.

Here are a few other tips to make your fall seed collection even better.

• Only collect mature seeds and float seeds (acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, etc.) before bringing them in. Unripe or rotten ones should float to the top.

• Keep collected seeds in a cool, dry place, preferably in a pail or five-gallon bucket. This prevents growth of mold.

• If possible, bring a piece of the tree, such as a young branch with a few leaves, to the field station to help foresters identify the species you’ve collected.

• Always call ahead before you start collecting. It may save you time collecting seeds the forestry offices won’t or can’t accept.

at the State Fair

If you’re heading to the state fair this week, take some time to visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture exhibit where fairgoers of all ages can participate in activities connecting agriculture with their daily lives.

The activities include making a living plant necklace, a wool bracelet, custom wildflower seed mix and a livestock animal ear tag that they can take home.

The exhibit will also include a free native wildflower seed packet giveaway, information on the Minnesota Cottage Food Law for home canners and backers as well as a variety of fun photo-op stations. Fair visitors are invited to participate in the Protect Minnesota Pollinators campaign through social media, using #MNpollinatorhero to inspire others to make their pollinator promise.

The exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Labor Day, Sept. 3, in the North Hall of the Agriculture/Horticulture Building.

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