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Seeds of Hope

November 2021

Small number of small seeds in a person's palmBy Ranger Amy

As I collect seeds from my garden, I can’t help but love them. They are beautiful.

They’re the beginning of a life, but they’re more than the embryo of a plant. A seed is the possibility of that life, and all the other lives that will be entangled and attached to it.

The time for planting native seeds is now. They will bury themselves in the ground. They might begin sprouting or sleep soundly through the winter and come to life again in the spring.

Planting a native seed means that you’re planting hope for the future of all those connected to the plant, which is everything native and natural to the area.

Gathering seeds

One of my favorite seeds is that of a wild Senna plant. They have a hard casing and look like shiny brown pellets. Their color ranges from a creamed cup of coffee to dark toffee.

When I first spotted this plant, I was stuck at a construction light. Outside my car window was a dried-up shrub full of pea-like pods. The next day I visited the site and got permission to collect the seeds. I wasn’t entirely sure what this plant was, but something inside me knew it was special.

Sicklepod Senna

After a bit of research, I discovered that the plant was a Sicklepod Senna. It’s in the pea family which means it’s a nitrogen fixer. It puts nitrogen back into the soil, helping the earth regain lost nutrients.

It has tiny yellow flowers that bumblebees are fond of, but nothing showy. It’ll grow to be about 5 feet tall, and since its leaves have an unpleasant odor when crushed, it’ll be left untouched by grazing animals.

Bright yellow butterfly hanging off a red flowerA cluster of these plants creates a busy habitat for small insects such as praying mantises, grasshoppers, and caterpillars to hide in. The caterpillars that need this plant are those of a big, bright, yellow Sulphur butterfly.  

Since I first planted these seeds three years ago in the park’s Wildscape garden, I’ve been surrounded by cheery yellow butterflies in the summer and fall. The caterpillars are stunning, too. They’re a bright lime green, blending in almost seamlessly with the plant except for a yellow line and purplish-blue dots down their sides.

New starts

caterpillar wrapped around the stem of a plantNow is the time of the year to collect seeds from this plant. There’s not much of the plant left to look at since the caterpillars have eaten most of it, but the pea-pod seeds are drying up and ready to pop open.

I love to give away seeds to those who visit me at the park. If you’re interested please don’t be shy! Ask me about the wildflowers in the garden, join me on a butterfly gardening walk, and plant the seeds, for they are hope. Hope that we can turn a little piece of our landscaped yards back into the habitat they once were.

A seed is small, but small things can make big impacts. A small seed can return the land back to what we and the wildlife around us yearn for it to be.