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Mashomack Musings: Meadows help seed the future

Autumn is harvest time, with farm stands bursting at the seams and chipmunks and squirrels gathering stores for the winter.

This October, Polly Weigand came to Mashomack to harvest ripe seeds from milkweed, thoroughwort, seaside goldenrod, eastern prickly pear and other plants. She has a 20-year history with Mashomack, having lived on the property as a tern and plover steward. More recently, she founded the Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), helping to propagate and distribute local native plants.

The seeds Polly collected will be cleaned, sorted and sowed in “founder plots,” areas that will act as a reservoir of various species for use in native plantings throughout Long Island. Having a variety of sources for seeds helps retain biodiversity, especially as climate change continues to challenge the viability of local species.

At Mashomack Point, we carefully harvested fruits from prickly pear cacti. Polly pointed out a band of darker beach grasses, relaying that the species was relatively rare, and that our population is very healthy.

Unfortunately, Polly also found worrisome signs of Beech leaf disease, a newly discovered problem for beeches that is now widespread on Long Island. While not a happy discovery, it underscores the importance of having a new set of eyes looking at a familiar landscape. It also highlights the importance of collaboration, often the key to success in complex problems.

Fall beauty can be fleeting. In just a few weeks, the last of the airborne seeds will have floated to their final destinations, re-setting the circle of life for the harvest next year.

Mashomack is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature thrive. Our mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. To learn more, visit nature.org.