- Malheur Experiment Station
Habitat restoration and reclamation efforts in the Intermountain West are highly dependent upon the availability of native wildflower seed. With limited quantities of wildflower seed currently available, sustainable production is the key to subsequent forb seed development and habitat restoration success.
In order to restore rangelands and reclaim natural habitats, sustainable wildflower harvesting practices must be sought for efficient seed production. Wildflower seed harvesting practices depend upon numerous factors. For instance, latitude, geographical elevation, and wildflower specie all influence the harvest season. Typically, harvests in the Intermountain West (specifically Eastern Oregon) occur when seeds are visibly mature in June through August.
For example, harvest of Sulphur-Flower Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) should occur promptly, within 3 weeks of maturation via mechanical means (Parris, Shock, Feibert, & Shaw, 2010). Combines and swathers are commonly-used machinery for most wildflower seed harvesting. Information on optimal combine rotor speeds for forb seed varieties can be found at NRCS Plant Material Centers (Stevens, Jorgensen, Young, & Monsen, 1996). If seeds are fragile or difficult to collect with machinery, handpicking methods are preferred. Immediate harvesting greatly improves seed recovery because the longer seeds sit and dry, the more likely it is that they shatter before harvest or will become airborne and drift away upon harvest (Dickerson, Longreen, & Hadle, 1981).