Well as you may have guessed this post is going to be about wiregrass; well mostly. It’s November…the temperatures are dropping in the Southeast Coastal Plain, the leaves on the trees are changing ever so slightly to a bronzed brown hue, and the wiregrass in the pine savannas is ready for pickin’.
Many of our preserves are in a restoration phase…meaning that we are in the process of converting them back to a more natural state. Some of the lands we protect, though they are undeveloped, may not be in the best of condition ecologically. It could be that they had been clear-cut by a previous owner, are overgrown and need to be thinned, or maybe they were used for agriculture at some point in the distant past. This is where the wiregrass comes in.
Part of the restoration process includes planting native seeds to regenerate a natural understory. Understory is all of the low grasses and herbs in a forest, basically the first layer of growth. In the southeast coastal plain we have pine savanna forests and the major understory grass is wiregrass.
Wiregrass plays a very important role in the pine savanna; it carries the much need fire across the ground. Without wiregrass the fire would not be able to roll over the forest floor and add nutrients to the soil.
Well in order to restore wiregrass to the pine savannas we first have to collect the seed. So that is what we have been doing! November is the prefect time of year to collect seed so we go out to our preserves that are ecologically healthy and collect wiregrass seeds (and some others too by default). We use many volunteers with scissors and we also have a fancy machine that “collects” the seeds too. We then use the seed to replant areas in our preserves that need it.
In some cases the seeds are grown into plugs in a greenhouse and once they are big enough the plugs are planted into the preserves; we have been doing some wiregrass plug planting as well. Here is a little demonstration of how to plant a wiregrass seed plug…it’s very technical.
There is never a dull moment around here, we manage to stay busy all year round! Many thanks to all of the volunteers that helped us with our collecting and planting…we couldn’t have done it without you!
As an added side note here is a beautiful picture taken by Angie Carl of Carolina grass of Parnassus. She snapped this in one of the preserves they were doing seed collecting. Carolina grass of Parnassus is a rare plant that grown in the Southeast Coastal Plain region and it blooms in late fall. It’s a stunning flower!