I haven’t had a chance to reflect on seed collecting as being God’s hands. Christ has no body, no hands but yours, wrote Teresa of Avila. Last Tuesday I dove into tallgrass prairie, leaving the path and heading into the grasses, seeking leadplant. Our steward Cindy has told us that the presence of leadplant is a sign of eco-health, and the Schulenberg Prairie is a vigorous being this year, bursting with leadplant. If the earth is God’s body, what organ are the prairies? The kidneys, maybe, filtering waste products?
Leadplant was pretty in bloom, with purple lupine-like flowers (the two are cousins, both members of the bean family) and fuzzy leaves. The dried flowerheads are easy to spot, of middling height next to tallgrass. It’s also easy to collect seeds, stripping them easily and then feeling like I could pat the plant as I might a just-sheared sheep, saying thanks and go on now. We only take half the seeds and leave the other half to reseed the prairie on its own. The week before I did coneflowers, and those were just as easy but differently textured, pointed seeds bordering on prickly and so needing clipping of the seedheads. Leadplant by comparison is gentle on the hands.
At the end of long summer days on the prairie, dried forbs mix with early autumn plants in bloom: purply-blue asters, cream gentian (I haven’t seen the blue variety). Many of the varied yellow composites are still hanging around, but the blooms of summer are aging into seedy maturity, losing eye-candy appeal and settling into the rhythm and imperative of reproduction. The yellow coneflower ages well, drying into drooping grey florets but gaining olfactory appeal with its anise-smelling seedhead, so many individual seeds tightly packed, poised to parachute to earth, take hold, and flower next year.