Wear what you sow

  • Seed beads

  South Dakotan Michael Melius sells jewelry you plant - -Seed Beads' loaded with seeds of increasingly rare native grasses and wildflowers and strung on scraps of linen thread. It was the simplest packaging Melius could think of. "I had tried to sell seed mixes in packets with little success, I think, because that packaging implies they're for people who are serious about growing native plants," he says. "Enclosed in balls of dirt, they're for anybody." The irony is that buyers then find they have a serious responsibility on their hands. "Plants like leadplant and groundplum seem to disappear under traditional livestock grazing regimes, while echinacea and breadroot are threatened by people digging the roots," Melius says. He began his project as "Prairie Bombs," an Earth Day fund-raising idea that boomed when he offered it commercially in April 1996. His brochure invited purchasers to "paint the land, then watch the sky make the colors run." Melius says Prairie Bombs now are history. "I never liked the name because of its killer connotations," he says, adding that there were uncanny similarities between himself and Ted Kaczynski, the alleged "Unabomber." "There I was, this manifesto-writing guy with unruly hair, carefully crafting my "bombs' in a low-tech shack ..."

Seed Beads are available only in South Dakota. For more information, contact Windrose Seeds, HCR 89, Box 275, Hermosa, SD 57744 (605/255-4766).

* Michael Moreland