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Rogue Native Plant Partnership: 2020 Was No Match

Between moving to a dedicated seed storage facility, adapting to COVID and an unprecedented wildfire season, and stepping back to plan for the next five years, it’s been an eventful year for the Rogue Native Plant Partnership! Despite the challenges of the year, our partners have remained committed to the cause and the support from the community has been terrific. Read on for some highlights and photos from the past 12 months!

Volunteers collecting native grass seed at the Rogue River Preserve in July 2020

Big Year for Volunteers – Thank You!

In masks and with mobile hand washing stations, volunteers showed up in force this year to collect seed and put native plant plugs in the ground. RNPP held a number of successful events, including:

  1. Two seed collection events, or “seed blitzes”. The first was held in June at BLM’s French Flat site near Cave Junction. Volunteers collected wildflower seeds like selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) and California oatgrass (Danothonia californica) that are uniquely adapted to grow on the serpentine soils at this site.

  2. A July seed blitz at Rogue River Preserve, where volunteers gathered seeds from the delightful wooly-headed clover (Trifolium eriocephalum) as well as four other native forbs and grasses.

  3. Two planting days held in partnership with the BLM at Upper Table Rocks – one in early spring and one just a few weeks ago in December. With several volunteers and a handful of BLM botanists leading small teams, we hiked out to sites where burn piles from brush thinning had left lovely ash piles (with gorgeous views of Mt. McLaughlin). Between the two events, over 150 native grass and forb plugs were put in the ground to enhance the native oak savannah habitat.

  4. Several milkweed pod collection events at J. Herbert Stone nursery this late summer and fall. Braving the smoke and heat, intrepid volunteers collected hundreds of pounds of pods, which will be tumbled and cleaned to separate the milkweed seeds from fluff, and used for plantings that will support our migratory monarchs and other pollinator species.

RNPP volunteers gain hands-on experience with planting native plant plugs and wild harvesting seeds. To add yourself to our volunteer list, use the Contact Us page!

Woody Species for Fire Response

In 2019, an RNPP subcommittee was formed to create a short list of “most wanted” woody plant species (shrubs and trees), which are highly desirable for restoration projects but difficult to source locally. It was decided that contracting with an expert botanical collector would be the best way to obtain these seeds, and in fall of 2020 we had our first delivery of seeds from Siskiyou Biosurvey.

Prunus virginiana seed

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) was one of the species collected through this initiative, and is currently being grown out so that this fast-growing riparian tree may be used in restoration work.

Acting quickly, we were able get these seeds cleaned and turned around and sold to growers, so that they can be grown out over the winter and spring to become viable plants that will be used for restoration. After the fires that ripped through the Rogue Valley in September, growers and nurseries are expecting an unprecedented demand for shrub and tree plugs.

Plant and Seed Sales

A big part of the Partnership mission is to get native plants in the hands of restoration practitioners, and this year we were able to sell seeds, plugs and containerized native plant starts.

Organizing plants for distribution to buyers throughout the Rogue Basin.

  1. Our annual native plant sale happened in spring, with online ordering and drive-through pickup in Ashland and Cave Junction. With 33 different species available from a variety of local growers, it was quite the coordination effort, but in the end the right plants ended up in the right hands! We had assistance with the sale from Vesper Meadow Education Program and Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, so a huge thanks to them for helping make it a success.

  2. After several years of wild collecting seeds, we were finally able to offer a sufficient quantity and diversity of native seeds to hold a sale! It was held in fall in the same format as the plant sale. In order to ensure that these precious seeds would be put to good use, we asked for a restoration plan from all our buyers. Many pounds of seeds were distributed through the sale to a variety of buyers, from government agencies to individual landowners. The Freshwater Trust and others were able to immediately plant seeds in burned zones this fall, one silver lining of the devastating fires. Overall, we judged our first seed sale a success, and its proceeds will be used to coordinate future seed collection events and to pay for the required seed cleaning and testing.

Bags of hand-harvested native seed are labeled, inventoried and stored in dedicated freezers at the Selberg Institute facility.

Coordinating Seed Production

Our achievements this year also comprise a handful of small “wins” that will streamline the process of collecting, cleaning and redistributing native seeds for years to come.

Gary Kliewer of Long Shadow Fields shows off the Agoseris grandiflora (a type of native dandelion) seed he produced at his farm.

  1. Completion of our comprehensive regional Species Priority list, which will guide the work to be done in seed collection and plug production going forward.

  2. Moving all our seed cleaning and storage equipment to the space at the Selberg Institute, south of Ashland. It has worked wonders to have a dedicated, secure space to use year-round to organize, store and clean seeds.

  3. Training partners on the use of the seed cleaning equipment, including local seed growers and members of the Yurok tribe.

  4. Documenting our seed cleaning methods so that others can learn from our hard-won lessons! (Did you know that elderberries should be fermented to separate the seeds from the berries?)

  5. Expanding our online resource library and blog to make access to the latest research and literature on ecological restoration accessible to all.

  6. Assisting Oregon Department of Transportation with organizing their seed inventory, so that the right seeds can be used in the right locations (and excess seeds can be directed to post-fire restoration).

  7. Completion of our Five Year Strategic Plan, providing direction and goals for 2021-26. We’ll recap this plan in an upcoming blog post.

Members of the Yurok tribe learning to use the Clipper to clean native seeds that they collected.

Facilitating Conversations about Native Plant Restoration

This year, we held two general Partnership meetings, and both were conducted remotely, with 25-30 people attending each meeting.

  1. In March, we heard from Joshua Chenowith, whose role with the Yurok tribe puts him in the position of procuring native plant materials for use in restoration of the Klamath dam site.

  2. At our December meeting, our guest speaker was Chris Adlam, Regional Fire Specialist at OSU Extension. His talk about the role of native plants in fire behavior sparked some great discussion. Read our recap here.

In addition to the General Meetings, we also held various subcommittee meetings to work on a riparian seed mix for post-fire restoration, plan for the future of RNPP, and continue to refine our priorities.

Showy milkweed (Asclepia speciosa) and its sticky, fluffy, slowly-exploding pods.

We look forward to another year of working together to bring more native plants to our wonderful Rogue Basin. Stay in touch and all the best in 2021!

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