Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium


Plants of Wisconsin

Vascular Plants

  Prairie Seeds Collecting Dates (May - September)

compiled by Wayne Pauly and Amanda Coyle - August 1977 for Dane County Highway & Transportation Dept.


May - July

August - September

Purpose: Collect seeds and not plants. Only collect plants when you are sure that an area will be destroyed. A plant in a remnant prairie may be five to five hundred years old and may not survive transplanting. But left undisturbed, a plant is a continuing source of seeds for you.

1. Where
    a. Many collecting areas exist along railroad and highway right-of-ways. Look for prairie remnants along "country roads", on steep hillsides, in marshes, and in poor farm country. be sure to get permission before collecting on private property.
    b. Do not collect on:
        Arboretum or University properties, Scientific areas, [or any other public parks, etc.]
        Interstate highway right-of-ways [rural roads are great sources for seeds]
        [Private lands without permission]

2. How to know when seeds are ripe
    a. When seeds fall easily from the plant.
    b. When pods lose green color and turn brown.
    c. When stem feeding seed head is brown and dry.
    d. When seed capsule starts to open.
    e. Seeds are often ripe about one month after blooming.
    f. Ripe seeds are plump, hard, and usually brown or black; unripe seeds are usually soft and green.

3. Materials
    a. Paper bags (not plastic bags which retain moisture and may cause seeds to rot).
    b. Work gloves.
    c. Marking pencil.
    d. Clippers to cut off seed heads.
    e. Protective eye glasses (sun glasses, etc. to keep from poking yourself with grass stalks).

4. Procedure
    a. Collect on a dry day when seeds are not wet with dew or rain.
    b. Never take more than 50% of the seeds in an area. Leave some for the land.
    c. Label your seeds bags with (1) date; (2) location; (3) name of plant; (4) type of site (dry, mesic, wet, sandy, loamy, rocky, etc.)
    d. If seeds are wet or excessively moist, spread them on newspaper to dry. Drying helps prevent the seeds from molding during storage.

5. Storage
    a. Put bags of seeds in burlap sacks or plastic garbage bags and hang them in an unheated garage or shed. If you use plastic bags, be sure that the seeds are dry, that the bags are packed loosely for good air circulation, and that holes are punched in the plastic. If seeds are stored on the floor you may have trouble with condensation and rodents. Prairie seeds must be stored in a cold place because they need that cold treatment for germination. A heated area can dry out seeds and kill them.
    b. Control insects in seeds by adding something like Shell- no-pest strip.


Prairie Primer by Stan Nichols and Lynn Entyne. A good handbook containing drawings of prairie plants, information on where they grow, how to start a prairie, and much more good information. Available from Agriculture Bulletin Building, 1535 Observatory Dr. Madison WI 53706. Pub. No. G2736.

Prairie Propagation Handbook by Harold Rock. 1971. A good reference book for planting prairies. It has information about propagation, habitat, time to collect, etc. for a large number of prairie plants. Available at Wehr Nature Center, 5879 S. 92nd St., Hales Corners WI 53130

Guide to the Arboretum Prairies by Binda Reich. 1971. An excellent introduction tot he plants, animals, history, and ecology of prairies. Available from the University of Wisconsin - Madison Arboretum, 1207 Seminole Highway, Madison WI 53711.

Vegetation of Wisconsin by John T. Curtis. 1959. A very readable text for the history and description of Wisconsin Prairies. Available from any major book store.

Botany News/Events
Book We Recommend
Historical Botanists
Other Links
Botanical Club of Wisconsin (off site)
UW-Stevens Point Biology Dept.
Plants of Wisconsin
Vascular Plants
Natural Communities
Botany News/Events
Other Links
Lichens (off site)   
Tom Volk's Fungi (off site)
Taxonomy of Vascular Plants
                          Vascular Plants
Browse by: Identification Guides
Family Wildflowers
Genus Trees
Common Names Shrubs
Search by: Vines
Names Aquatic-Semi aquatic
Specimens Ferns - Fern Allies
Blooming Times Grasses, Sedges, or Rushes
County & Status Other Resources  
Town Range Taxonomy of Vascular Plants
  WI Checklist & CofC Values
Browse by:
Common Name
Search by:
Copyright 2012 Permissions Contact Us Web Map