Raising and Preserving Native Plants

It’s been a cool and rainy spring so far, but my yard is starting to green up. I planted a native beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana) last year and I’m anxious to see whether we’ll see the berries this time around. Since growing things – especially native plants – is on my mind, I naturally turned to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service for both inspiration and instruction.

I’m not quite ready to start my own nursery, but if I were, the Nursery Manual for Native Plants: A Guide for Tribal Nurseries would be a big help. Although this book had its origin in several meetings with tribal members to discuss their needs for native plants, facilities, and training, and it uses plants important to Native Americans as examples, anyone interested in the propagation of native species of plants can find a lot to interest them here.

Take seeds, for instance. Although there are commercial sources for some native plants, it’s obviously possible to head into the woods and gather your own – but would you know what to look for, and at what time of year? You need to know when plants flower (and for many species, that’s not so obvious) and the best timing to gather a given seed crop. Another essay in the book talks about how to get seeds to germinate. To propagate some species, you need to use scarification – disrupting an impermeable seedcoat so water and oxygen can enter dormant seeds. Some seeds need fire (there’s a section on smoking them as a technique), digestive acids in the stomachs of animals, or abrasion by blowing sand or ice. I guess I won‘t be trying this kind of thing at home, but it’s great for budding nursery growers and interesting to read about.

Because the Nursery Manual for Native Plants is filled with the wonderful common names of such species, occasionally you can find bits of “found poetry”, like this one:

Common Dioecious Plants

ash

buffaloberry

cottonwood

fourwing saltbush

joint fir

maple

silverberry

willow

Nursery Manual for Native Plants holds great charm for feeble home gardeners like me, as well as a trove of great information for Native Americans or anyone else with a serious commitment to propagating and harvesting America’s unparalleled herbaceous and woody wealth. You can browse through it here, get your own copy here, or find it in a library.

 

5 Responses to Raising and Preserving Native Plants

  1. Stacy Gordon says:

    Native plants play a very important role in the biodiversity of a region. It’s great to know that here’s a layman’s book for preserving and growing native plants. Thanks a lot.

    Like

  2. zannias vasilis says:

    THIS IS SEPARATE ARTICLE!MY COUNTRY IS MOUNTAINOUS , WITH 3000 ISLANDS , MOST OF THEM ARE MOUNTAINOUS TOO!!!AS RESULT , IN GREECE WE HAVE NOT BIG TRADITION ABOUT PLANTS AND GARDENS!NEVERTHELESS “NURSERY MANUAL FOR NATIVE PLANTS” IS A VERY USEFULL GUIDE FOR ANYONE!AS FAR AS I AM CONCERN , I HAVE A NEW APARTMENT , AND I AM THINKING TO MAKE A GARDEN , SO A GUIDE LIKE THIS WILL BE VERY USEFULL!IT WILL GIVE ME MANY IDEAS AND…
    INSIRATION!BY THIS ARTICLE I CAN TAKE ANOTHER MEANING:IF SOMEONE LOVES PLANTS AND PRESERVE THEM , IT IS SURE , THAT HE IS A SENSITIVE MAN!

    Like

  3. Kate says:

    Does this book cover plants by region? I’m in California and want to plant as many natives possible for a more waterwise garden.

    Like

  4. ibrahim khan says:

    This is a very valuable contribution from USDA,both for the secialist as well as a layman.

    Like

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