Ecological restoration work on our remaining grassland habitat is hard. From contending with aggressive invasive species, to the loss of poorly understood soil microbiomes, to the absence of the natural systems that once made possible the rich diversity of these places. It’s hard. And there’s so much that we don’t know.

The more I learn, the more humbled I am. For years now, I’ve been steadily working to rehabilitate about three acres on our property. I quickly learned that even a high-diverse seed mix that contains nearly a hundred different species does not result in a remnant quality prairie.

Not everything germinates. Some species tend to dominate. The cool season invasive grasses continue to be an ongoing challenge. But more than that, many incredible species aren’t even included in seed mixes!

Take for example my beloved pasque flower. People don’t include it for a reason. Like many others, the seed is expensive and doesn’t germinate well using standard sowing techniques. This is why I’ve taken to developing methods for planting HUNDREDS of living plants quickly and efficiently to produce the kind of effect that you’d find on a high quality remnant (like at the Seven Sisters, for you local folk).

Pasque flower in seed

There are many species like this, but another is the wood lily. One of two lilies native to Minnesota, it is an absolute firecracker on an early summer prairie. But if you want to experience that one your own property by sowing some seed, you’d better be ready to wait… upwards of seven years!

I’m working on ways to shave years off of that timeline. And yesterday I received a bit of encouragement! I don’t even remember planting this lily, but here it is!

The goal is, like with the pasque flower, be able to plant hundreds of them on a site quickly and efficiently. My hope is that I can augment traditional reconstruction practices with more of these rare charismatic plants. This will not only make our restorations more attractive to people, but, especially with respect to the early season flowers, more functional as well!

Wish me luck!

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