Years ago, my friend and I used to talk about collecting soil in the wild and seeing what might grow from seeds unseen. We never got around to trying it. So...
...in October 2010 I collected a 9" x 12" envelope full of sandy soil from a desert area with Hymenoxys, Astragalus, Haplopappus, Phlox and other plants endemic to the county. In December 2010 I filled three rectangular flower pots with my alpine soil mix and put a thin layer of the wild collected soil over the mix. I used the thin layer approach since most seeds from desert areas are light requiring for germination.
The soil I gathered was next to the plant and down into the soil a few inches, disturbing the plant roots as little as possible.
My hypothesis is that the seeds from these areas around the plants are dormant due to proximity to the plant and other possible germination inhibitors. If the seeds are at least a year old and require cold stratification that would be completed the first winter. The experiment isn't incredibly scientific but has the makings of a good paper to present somewhere, someday.
So, as we wait for Spring to come around, there's some food for thought. Give it a try this coming year. I will give an update of the results of the experiment and take some photos to share if there are seeds that germinate.
Happy Sowing And germination,James