Happy Earth Day!
Today, April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! Caring for the environment and growing native plants for the benefit of birds, pollinators, and wildlife is a good way to honor Earth Day.
With the arrival of spring we are enjoying the amazing botanical diversity and wildflowers of the Klamath-Siskiyou region. This is an exciting time of year as native seeds that we have direct sown outside in the fall and winter have germinated and are starting to grow more quickly with the unusually sunny spring conditions we have been having. In celebration of Earth Day, and the height of the spring bloom it’s a good time to revisit a previous planting project to check on its process and the excellent habitat it is providing.
The photos above show a wildflower meadow restoration project in the fall of 2018 and then again just this spring near a home in the Siskiyou Mountains at around 2,000′ elevation. The area was originally seeded with only native bunchgrasses about 15 years ago, and over the last few years wildflower seeds from Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds have been sown within the native bunchgrasses to increase species richness and diversity. The wildflower seeds have been sown in the fall after maintenance burning with a propane torch and after fire season has ended. Burning back the thatch in the fall clears the area and prepares it for additional seed sowing to continually add appropriate species to the site, and increase some that are slower to establish.
Effective site preparation in the fall pays off in the spring as seeds germinate in areas that were well prepared for native seeding. Site preparation is key to successful seed germination. Read more about site preparation techniques in our November 30, 2018 blog post Site Prep Techniques for Native Seeding.
Spring is a good time start thinking of site preparation for fall seeding. Many project areas have intense weed competition that needs to be addressed before fall seeding can occur. We will be following up this blog post with one addressing springtime site preparation techniques.
Pacific hound’s tongue provides great habitat! Left photo: Hound’s tongue woolly bear or wild forget-me-not moth (Gnophaela latipennis) caterpillar on Pacific hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande) in spring 2020. Right photo: Hound’s tongue woolly bear or wild forget-me-not moth (Gnophaela latipennis) adult foraging on showy milkweed in the summer.
Now that the project area has matured it is supporting amazing biodiversity of both flora and fauna. The inclusion of abundant Pacific hounds’ tongue (Cynoglossum grande) attracts the Hound’s tongue woolly bear or wild forget-me-not moth, that uses the species as a larval host plant. Bumble bee queens of various species come out of hibernation happy to forage on Pacific hound’s tongue flowers. Early blooming species are critical for maintaining the lifecycle of many pollinators.
Lupines such as velvet lupine (Lupinus leucophyllus) and sicklekeel lupine (Lupinus albicaulis), seen below, fix nitrogen into the soil, add color and texture, provide pollen and nectar for a wide variety of pollinators and are larval host plants for numerous butterflies.
Below is a slide show of the seed project area in the fall of 2018 and then again in spring 2020. The area is on the edge of woodland and mixed conifer forest so there is abundant leaf litter and thatch. After propane torch burning in the fall the area is seeded with additional native seeds to annually increase species richness and diversity into the area. As an alternative to using a propane torch you can also rake an area free from leaf litter and thatch and seed into the opened area.
We hope you are enjoying your own native seed projects this Earth Day. Enjoy watching the seedlings grow and the wildflowers thrive, buzzing with pollinators and other wildlife. Grow Native — Grow Wild!