Collecting Native Seeds at Sycamore’s Preserves

Sycamore has been collecting seeds from native plants like milkweed and ironweed at Sycamore preserves this fall with the help of Indiana Native Seed Communities, a group that promotes growing with locally-sourced seeds to produce hardy plants adapted to our region.

These seeds will be grown in a dedicated greenhouse and the plants will be redistributed for restoration projects, including at Sycamore’s preserves. We will grow our own plants with the help of volunteers and spread the seeds in areas that have been cleared of harmful invasives, creating a healthy and diverse habitat where native species can flourish.

The seeds will also be shared with The Pollinator Partnership’s Project Wingspan, a landscape enhancement effort that supports imperiled pollinators including monarchs and the rusty-patched bumblebee. Learn more at

Making sure there is room for native flowers, grasses, and trees on our preserves is one of the most important things we can do to benefit the land in our care. Watch our seed collection project in action in Episode 2 of our “Taking Care: Stewardship Stories” video series, now available at

New Germination Boxes at Cedar Crest

Our pollinator gardens at Cedar Crest have been put to bed for the winter, left “messy” to leave plenty of winter food and shelter for the wildlife that depend on it.  This month we’ve also put several seeds to bed in our new, custom-built native seed germination boxes.

“We are in the beginning stages of establishing a small container nursery to grow out some of the seed we’ve collected on our preserves this year,” said Mary Welz, Sycamore’s Education Director. “We are starting small. But we see a great potential for this to be a bigger project in the future.”

On a windy rainy day in mid-December, eleven seed flats were sown and placed in our beautiful new propagation boxes to wait out the winter.  Extra seed from a previous seed cleaning event was also sown in the Brunning-Gerster Prairie at the front of Sycamore’s Cedar Crest headquarters.

Chris Fox, Land Stewardship Director, built these native seed germination boxes, worked out best practices for growing priority plant species, and involved volunteers. “Collecting local seed is important but there are guidelines and ethics to doing it responsibility and sustainability,” he said.  He and Mary worked with volunteers this fall to first sustainably collect and then clean seed harvested from several Sycamore properties. Native seed grows hardier plants adapted to local conditions.

“Many of the native perennials we are growing require a period of cold moist conditions to simulate natural conditions required for them to germinate (aka stratification),” Mary explained. “Sycamore does this by either putting seed into refrigeration for a predetermined period and/or sowing seed directly into flats with specialized soil mixes and keeping them outdoors for the winter in these protected frames.”

It takes a community to restore native habitat. Our wonderful and dedicated volunteer Kate Mulligan and Bill Daniels with Indiana Native Seed Communities have been instrumental in helping make this possible, along with a generous grant from the Indiana Native Plant Society.

“Stay tuned for more updates from Sycamores native plant nursery,” Mary said. “Spring is closer than we think!”  Learn more about growing native plants from seed and Indiana Native Seed Communities at Indiana Native Plant Society’s website.