What a pleasure to talk to LSU’s professor of Biology, Dr. Bill Platt again Monday. Dr. Platt is a native Floridian who received his Phd from Cornell. He’s a researcher and teacher. His specific research “includes the disturbance ecology, especially hurricane and fire ecology, and restoration ecology of the southeastern United States”. I met him by chance when I found a paper written by Nancy Bissett, owner, with her husband William, of The Natives, Inc. of Davenport, Florida. The Bissetts do amazingly unique work and her paper on Dry Prairie restoration is one significant treatise. Mrs. Bissett and Dr. Platt had both presented papers at the Florida Dry Prairie conference in 2004 and I noticed that Bill was from LSU(right-down the road a-piece), so I called him this past summer to talk. He is one of LSU’s best-kept secrets!
Dr. Platt and I talked a little about our similar interests during that first phone conversation and it was like we’d been friends forever. Ha, maybe it was just me that felt that way. 🙂
He called today to discuss the possibility of his Conservation Biology class doing field research at one of my seeded restorations. I suggested doing work at the best and oldest one around: my fields in Henleyfield, in Pearl River County, Mississippi. He agreed. I think we have a pretty good plan hashed out. He will be finalizing the syllabus and the schedule in the next few days for the start of class on January 21st. And we’ve agreed to take a trip out to the Henleyfield fields in the next few weeks so he can have his first gander at them.
The first half of the class will be spent indoors with lectures(mostly his) and I will do one on restoration via seed. The rest will be field days spent at Bluebonnet Swamp and my seed fields.
During the call Bill asked if I had a planting that we could work in and I’d suggested that we use one of the better patches of natural meadow at my farm. There’s one meadow at there planted with seed from the very bountiful Frey prairie remnant south of Eunice, the last seeding I did of many, from November 1998 to November 2001. Its an extraordinarily good representation of about an acre, of what I consider to be high-end restoration vegetation. It very much resembles the pristine Nash Prairie in Houston. Its attractive to the eye, being very short in height, with a very diverse suite of species present, and its nearly void of weedy plants. All that’s there is the good stuff. At last count two years ago, 55+ species.
Its not this way because I worked at it. Its this way because the seeds that I planted worked at it. In fact I purposely did nothing to the site after seeding except burn to it three times in the last 12 years. Like Charles Allen always says “just put the seeds out there and they’ll grow!”. I remember back years ago, a few years after I sowed my fields, asking Charles at least a couple of times… “you sure this is gonna work?” and hey would say something all confusian like, “Patience, Grasshopper”.
Charles was right. It worked. The key here though is the seed. I was concentrating on diversity while I collected seed and was made an effort to get seed of Little Bluestem grass. Oh, and I had the new hand-held motorized seed harvester, too. That helped. So what was once a Bahia grass cow pasture is now a seemingly historical expression of God’s gift of biodiversity. Step in and take a trip back in time.
There will be four or five lab classes. During the time spent in the fields, the students will be able to enjoy the other 50-odd experiments with native wildflowers that are scattered across the property. We will do a small controlled burn on half and Dr. Platt intends to devise some scientific studies, some of which he discussed and most of which I’d never heard of.
I worry not because Bill will be there to lead us all and he is a leader if I ever saw one. A cracker-jack good guy, too.
I will look forward to being treated to a few of his lectures and certainly will enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor of 2001, get a thorough going-over by none other than the Bill Platt III and his Bio class. How lucky a guy am I, ya’ll?
The link below is Mrs. Bissett’s article describing what I consider to be some of the most current best-practices for prairie construction in the south, using “Holy Grail” seed collections. click the link below to her paper… and the Natives website link is there below it…so peruse. Dr Platt’s paper from that conference proceedings is below that.