Living

Help preserve prairie land

What: Prairie conservation work party

Where: Glacial Heritage Preserve near Littlerock

When: Every Tuesday and the second Saturday of each month until Nov. 10

Cost: Free

Information: Contact Grace Diehl at 360-870-5500 or gdiehl@tnc.org

Interview: Robin Stanton, Barbara French and Eli Evans, The Nature Conservancy

What are volunteers doing at Glacial Heritage Preserve?

Volunteers collect seeds from native plants and remove Scotch broom and other invasive plants from the prairie in an effort to return the prairie to its natural state.

Who are the typical volunteers?

Most of the volunteers are retirees, “but we’d love to get some young faces out there,” French said. Evans said, “The volunteers joke that their backs and knees aren’t going to last forever.” People of all ages have turned out on occasions. There’s even work for kids.

How do the volunteers collect the seeds and what do they do with them?

A volunteer devised a contraption that looks like an inverted cap that hangs from the flowers. New seeds produced by the flowers fall into the caps and are later collected by volunteers. The seeds are used to grow new flowers, which are then planted in the prairie.

How much of the South Puget Sound area’s original prairie land remains?

“The number we use is about 3 percent,” Stanton said. The rest has been squeezed out by invasive plants, urban sprawl and the suppression of fire set by American Indians. Many years ago, the fires used to keep new conifer trees from encroaching on the prairies.

What was Glacial Heritage Preserve like when you started working there?

“Scotch broom all over and it was about 6 feet tall,” French said. Now the prairie is open, but Scotch broom still sprouts up every year.

Is it possible to permanently remove all the Scotch broom and other invasive weeds?

“That is possible,” French said. “But it will take very consistent work.”

However, between staying on top of the invasive plants and collecting seeds to harvest new plants, Stanton said, “the work is neverending.”

Craig Hill, The News Tribune

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