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When ‘Going to Seed’ Is a Good Thing


Native plant seeds are ready for harvest, and Irvine Ranch Conservancy seeks volunteers to help.

California poppies are beautiful, but what do they sound like? Hear for yourself while helping restore natural habitats at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Native Seed Farm. Now through mid-June is a critical time for seed collection, and the Conservancy is seeking individuals and groups to take part in the harvest.

As you walk along the rows of orange blooms, you’ll hear a distinctive “pop” as the seed pods burst open. This is the California poppy’s way of dispersing seeds, and Conservancy staff hopes to collect seed pods from the poppy and other flowers on the farm now, just as they are beginning to disperse.

“Seed from the Native Seed Farm is used to restore areas throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Unlike crop plants, most wild plants disperse their seeds immediately upon maturity, making harvest a race against time,” says Jutta Burger Ph.D., Irvine Ranch Conservancy Co-Director of Science & Stewardship. “This is a perfect opportunity for large groups or families to have a meaningful impact on restoring natural habitats in their own community.”

Many local groups and individuals participate in seed harvesting and other work on the Native Seed Farm, where more than 1,600 pounds of seed was harvested in 2011. The seed farm is an integral part of the restoration work the Conservancy performs in partnership with landowners such as OC Parks, the City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach. The farm is a cost-effective and efficient way of producing native plant seed that would be otherwise unaffordable or unavailable.

The Conservancy hosts regular programs at the Native Seed Farm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Kids 12 and over are welcome with parental supervision. Individuals, families or small groups can register for these scheduled harvesting sessions at Special accommodations can also be made for groups of 8 or more, and local businesses may hold corporate volunteering events at the Native Seed Farm.