Explore seeds this fall

By Sydney Algreen-Hunter on October 10, 2023 in Blog

Acorn Crew: Fall Seed Exploration

The Acorn Crew is INHF's initiative to get children and families outdoors. Through the Acorn Crew you can find self-guided activities for you and your family, tips for exploring nature and other resources to enjoy while outdoors together. 

The fluffy seeds of tall thoroughwort.

Fall marks a time of year for letting go. Letting go of light and warmth, and for plants, letting go of seeds! Hearty nuts and fruits come barreling down and fluffy seeds take flight in the fall breeze. That means seeds are plentiful and easy to find—often in your own backyard. Venture into prairies, parks and yards to explore seeds with your family!

What to bring

You can explore seeds on your own quite easily. Take our Acorn Crew Seed Exploration guide with you and you can look for a variety seeds wherever you find yourself outdoors. Kids will enjoy both looking at the diversity of seeds and filling buckets, bags or pockets with acorns and other plentiful nuts.

Seed head of monarda, commonly known as bee balm.Some seeds are no larger than the smallest crumb (find those mountain mint seeds!) and others like buckeyes, acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts are easily found. You might want to bring a magnifying lens to locate smaller seeds or to investigate their intricacies (like that of bee balm (monarda spp.)).

Always use your senses

As always, encourage your youngsters to use their senses and they will be ever more curious! Some seeds are aromatic (thank you grey-headed coneflower) and others can be a tasty treat—be sure to only consume items you’re confident in identifying and know are edible. Even I enjoy cracking open a shagbark hickory nut to snack on.

And with some seeds, the exploration never stops! Did you know that the seed pods of the honey locust start off velvety? Then as the seeds dry later in the fall you can rattle one of the chocolatey brown pods to your heart’s content. Oh, and don’t forget to open the pods to reveal the smooth, flat seeds inside!

Learn from the experts

A family collects prairie seeds. There’s a wealth of knowledge to gain by attending a prairie seed harvest, plus, you’ll be helping conservation organizations create more habitat with the seeds you collect. INHF hosts several across the state each year, including the popular Moonlight Seed Harvest with Polk County Conservation. Many county conservation boards and other conservation entities host seed harvests as well. Check MyCountyParks.com to find one near you.

Explore more

You and your family can really dive into seeds by exploring seed dispersal with our Seed Exploration activity. You can even set up an experiment at home to see how seeds move. If that hits home for you, try pairing it with the book “Seeds Move!” by Robin Page. It features many seeds from plants native to Iowa, plus some of the most interesting seed dispersal techniques from around the world.  

Seeds are hope in a shell — we hope these tips and activities will get you and your family outdoors throughout the fall and beyond!