Native prairie seed harvested for San Jacinto Battleground
LA PORTE — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will soon be restoring 110 acres of tall-grass prairie at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site with the help of League City’s Parks Department, University of Houston’s Coastal Center, the Native American Seed Company, Shell Refining and the San Jacinto Battlegrounds Conservancy.
While much of the park retains the same tall grasses that helped hide the Texian army as it approached Mexican Gen. Santa Anna’s encampment during the Texas Revolution, portions of the historic battleground have become overgrown with a canopy of alien Chinese tallow trees. A large area of the battleground has been cleared of this invasive tree imported from Asia and is now ready to be seeded with native grasses and wildflowers.
Since very few areas of Texas today retain native prairie consisting of a landscape rich in plant diversity because of loss of habitat caused by farming, overgrazing and development. TPWD had been having a difficult time finding the coastal region type of prairie plants that once grew across the battleground. In addition, the site’s existing prairie was too small and patchy for a successful harvest.
Fortunately, League City’s Benoit Prairie Park holds 44 acres of one of the highest quality remnant prairies left on the Gulf Coast. Likewise, U of H’s Galveston County coastal property contains roughly 100 acres of prairie grasses. TPWD worked out an agreement that allows Junction’s Native American Seed Company to harvest native grass and wildflower seed from their prairies to use to reseed 110 acres of the San Jacinto Battleground late this winter or early next spring.
The work is being accomplished with the same type of combines most farmers use, but the machines have been modified to harvest the especially diverse and fluffy native plant seeds. The combine work is similar to mowing the prairie; a practice now done annually at the prairie parks, except that the cut portion of the plants is retained and the attached seed is collected. This material is then brought back to Native American Seed’s facility where it is cleaned and tested for viability.
The diverse species harvested so far include such beautiful plants as blue mist flower, purple gay feather, switchgrass, little bluestem, Indian grass and Texas coneflower. More than a hundred different types of seed will be collected in all and planted into the restored battleground by Native American Seed once the ground becomes dry enough this winter or early spring.
This project emphasizes the importance of the conservation work League City and Harris County have been doing to retain portions of Texas’ native landscape. Native American Seed specializes in conducting large-scale conservancy seed harvests on Texas’ last great prairie remnants. This seed is not available elsewhere and the San Jacinto Battleground restoration would not be possible without it. These preserved coastal tall-grass prairie parks not only provide beautiful and historic landscapes, but also provide a home for such prairie-dependent wildlife as marsh hawks and meadow larks.