Thursday, February 12, 2015

Native Albany Pine Bush Preserve Plants

My earlier post described processes involved in cleaning wild flower seeds being propagated to replace invasive species in the Albany, NY, Pine Bush Preserve. These flowers should provide nectar for Karner Blue butterflies that live there and are endangered. 

My Introduction: Bagged Dried Horsemint Flowers
Jesse's Earlier Step: Harvested NJ Tea Seed Heads Laid Out for Drying
Below are photos of some of the plants that produced the seeds we cleaned last week. Jesse Hoffman took these and shared them to illustrate what they look like when all decked out in flowers and how they are laid out to dry after harvesting.

Horsemint Closeup

Horsemint Mid Range View
Horsemint from a Distance
Horsemint Seeds in Ever Cleaner Stages
New Jersey Tea Closeup
New Jersey Tea
Bagged New Jersey Tea
Cleaning Stages: New Jersey Tea
Bush Clover
Showy Tick Trefoil Closeup
Showy Tick Trefoil

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cleaning Seeds

The past few days I had a wonderful time helping a friend, Jesse Hoffman, transform more than a dozen large leaf bags filled with seed heads of flowering plants to five small bags of clean seeds. Jesse has been doing this process at the Big Flats, New York, Plant Materials Center near Corning, for a few years: . This is one of 27 plant materials centers operated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service that serves northeastern states. It's an incredibly valuable resource for the region.

Jesse is the Preserve Steward and Botanist at the 5,380 acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve, a local and national treasure that harbors rare and endangered species including the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, two rare natural communities and fourteen rare insects. His responsibilities include replacing invasive species with native plants that help endangered insects flourish. His staff, volunteers and seasonal workers gather seed heads from selected varieties and after drying them, place them in bags. They concentrate on wild lupine which is the only plant that Karner Blue butterflies feed on and have that cleaned at the New York State Tree Nursery: in Saratoga Springs because the very large quantity of pods is too difficult to transport to the Finger Lake region. We processed New Jersey Tea, Showy Tick Trefoil, Bush Clover, Butterfly Weed, and Horsemint.

The first step tears apart the pods or seed heads to release the individual seeds using either a hammermill or a seed brushing machine. Both force the plant matter through one of a variety of screens with different size holes. The next operation then separates the mix of materials through more screens using a combination of shaking and blowing to separate the materials that are larger than (scalpings), smaller than or lighter than single seeds. This often required repeating the process a few times to remove different sizes of extraneous material to end up with pure seed. A great tool for finishing was the Clipper Office Tester, that is small, easy to reconfigure using a large selection of screens, and runs quietly.  For the first separation process we typically used a larger, floor mounted, model, and for one type, an even larger model cleaner to remove the tiny seeds from five large bins of hammer milled material.

We had budgeted more than two days, including two overnights, but finished in less so we could get home on the second day. This was only possible because Jesse had processed each variety before and knew exactly what size reducing process and screen size was best for each, and then what machine, screen sizes and air blowing settings gave good results for the final separation and cleaning steps. 
Two Types of Seed Heads: Bush Clover and Horsemint

Hammer Mill Screen Options

Hammer Mill Open, Without a Screen
Seed Brushing Machine from Denmark
Screens for Seed Brushing Machine
Open Seed Brushing Machine Showing Brushes, Without Screen
Clipper Office Tester w/ Bins for Scalpings, Seed, and Light Fractions
Cabinet Full of Screens with Different Hole Types & Sizes
Sample of Screens Showing Various Hole Sizes

Jesse Feeding Floor-mounted Seed Cleaner