The Quest for Seed – nothing is straightforward

In my last update I explained how the Naturetale Restoration Foundation now only needs about £200 more to meet its Year 1 cost budget and start its meadow establishment trial.  (We still do, by the way, if you have some spare cash and want to help advance what is known about improving the biodiversity of new or poor quality wild flower meadows. Or know someone who might.)

But in the meantime our focus has switched to obtaining the seed that we will require.  Needless to say, this is not as straightforward as popping down to the garden centre. Perhaps inevitably, because the six species that the trial will use are known to be hard to establish, there are not much of a demand for their seed. And so equally predictably few suppliers of wild flower seed bother harvesting them.

Back in 2015, when we were planning and validating the trial, I used Flora Locale to contact all potential seed suppliers.  Of these eight replied to say that they could definitely or possibly provide at least one of the six species.  But no supplier could provide them all. So, now that we are up and running the next task is to obtain the seed that we’ll need. To this end I’ve been re-contacting these eight suppliers.

I thought I’d contact four initially, so see what the response was.  It has been, shall we say, ‘patchy’.  One did not reply, one has stopped supplying, one could do Dropwort only, and one could provide old stocks of two species and possibly harvest a third.  So from these suppliers we can have three, possibly four species provided. Time to contact the other four suppliers, which I have just done! Fingers crossed.

One of the contacted suppliers suggested that, as we’ll need more seed of the same four species in each of 2017 and 2018 it might be a good idea to pre-order the seed we’ll need form someone who harvests to order.  This seems sensible, and so I have contacted such a provider to ask if they will.  Let’s see what happens.

2 thoughts on “The Quest for Seed – nothing is straightforward

  1. Randy Pheobus

    WhIle working on similar grassland restoration projects, we have found that the plantings themselves can rapidly begin to provide seed if careful planning allows for collection in non-trial portions of original plantings.
    We collect from watersheds adjacent to our project and insist on preserving the genetic diversity of local native populations. If original collection is carefully laid out, the exponential increase in selected species’ seed of biologically appropriate genetics is quite remarkable.
    Finally, it has been found to be critical to outcross local populations of native species with other nearby native populations to overcome much of the inbreeding depression now seen in our fragmented populations in the 21st century.
    When this is done, the results are astounding.

    1. naturetale Post author

      Hi Randy,

      Thanks for your comment (and sorry for taking so long to respond). What you say is very interesting. In truth, we’re not so focused on the performance of the seeds per se, we’re more interested to measure the effect of alternative mowing regimes on the ability of four particular species to establish themselves over a period of several years (at least five). These species are Dropwort, Saw-wort, Meadow saxifrage and Burnet saxifrage. We’ve chosen these because previous trial work has shown that they typically get out competed and thus fail to establish. Of course, if one or more of these species fail to establish from seed at all, then we will need a re-think.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *