Illinois - Indiana

Kankakee Sands: Restoration Update

Heart-Leaved Plantain

Alyssa Nyberg from Kankakee Sands writes about how three organizations—The Nature Conservancy, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and NICHES Land Trust—worked together to try to establish a second population of another conservative plant, the heart-leaved plantain (Plantago cordata) in Indiana. 

Plants are the basis of our work at Kankakee Sands.

Without the plants, we would not be able to have the myriad of insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds on our land. In fact, without plants, our prairies simply wouldn’t exist! We have more than 600 different species of plants growing in our prairie restorations.

This past year, we had the unique opportunity to work with some very special, conservative plants.

Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii) is a state endangered, short-lived perennial of sand prairies and sand savannas. There is a small population of Hill’s thistle growing at Conrad Station Savanna. There is also a small population at Beaver Lake Nature Preserve. The two populations are separated by a distance of 1.75 miles as the crow flies. Neither population was producing seed, which we surmised was due to a lack of successful pollination.

Last summer we attempted to cross pollinate the two populations.

Last June, we took our paintbrushes out to both sites to collect and transfer pollen from one site to another. The pollinated flowers were netted to reduce seed predation by weevils and birds. In late July, the seed from the plants was collected and observed.

Unfortunately, only two viable seeds were produced, but two is better than none! All seeds, viable and those thought to be unviable, were returned to the two sites and planted.

We will continue our knowledge and understanding of Hill’s thistle into the future to hopefully preserve this beautiful plant of our local area.


 

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