The Length of a Lemma: Wild Seed Collection in Western Oregon

By Emily Hayden and Sophie Linden

November 2022

Seed collection can’t be accomplished in a month, let alone a single season. Before and after a harvest is a long strand of thoughtful coordination meetings to develop target species lists, the actual on-the-ground scouting, and the detailed assessment of a population in its environment. This includes the plant rust you didn’t expect, the asynchronous fruiting from late season rains, the click of clickers, the puzzling thryses (flower clusters), and the length of a lemma. It’s the invertebrate that left its droppings but ate the seed, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s the community resources that yield a collective knowledge of a species distribution and its reproductive biology.

From left to right. This year’s site-specific and regional collections included Common tarweed (Madia elegans), Columbia tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), American vetch (Vicia americana) and Seaside buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium).

This year our Willamette Valley Seed Collection team worked to make accessions of forbs and graminoids for projects including the Bureau of Land Management’s Seeds of Success program, the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly Recovery Project, and our regional Willamette Valley Native Plant and Coastal Native Seed Partnerships. Working in upland prairies, salt-spray meadows, and seasonally-flooded wetlands, we surveyed sites spanning from Douglas County to the Portland metro area in search of quantifiably robust populations for wild seed collection. 

At initiation our target species list included over 80 species, including American vetch (Vicia americana), Cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus), Riverbank lupine (Lupinus rivularis), Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), as well as species of concern such as Sericocarpus rigidus.

Annie Lamas and Annamarie Pfiefer sidling up next to Small flowered blue eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora). This was a seed collection request for Mary’s Peak restoration efforts.

Wild seed accessions are used for a wide array of projects including gene banking for the Seeds of Success program, site-based restoration projects at Mary’s Peak, seed amplification at the IAE farm, and species-recovery efforts for the Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus oreganus) and shaggy horkelia (Horkelia congesta). Currently, seed cleaning is in full swing at our Corvallis office, and wild collections are softly falling back to Earth—just without their pappus.

From left to right: (1) The beginnings of our Luzula comosa var. laxa collection for the Seeds of Success Program. (2) Pollinator bags wave in the wind at a Douglas County site. (3) Many hands helped us make a successful collection of Hordeum brachyantherum for our Coastal Native Seed Partnership. A special thanks to the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership (NORP) and the Northwest Youth Corps ASL inclusion crew for helping pull this one off! (4) Harvest in tote! A successful harvest of Riverbank lupine made its way to our Corvallis seed cleaning facility.


Our Willamette Valley Seed Collection technician, Emily Hayden, tends to some of our wild collections.


“Flora of the Pacific Northwest” in part-shade.

IAE thanks the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service for funding and collaborating on this year’s seed collection projects. Additionally, we want to thank the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, City of Eugene, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, Lane County, Polk and Yamhill Soil and Water Districts, Portland Metro, Oregon State Parks and many more for generously providing access and important site information for this year’s seed collection efforts.