Growing Oregon: A photo essay of native seed production

A bucolic spring day in the seablush (Plectritis congesta) field. The species is being grown to support restoration in middle-elevation prairies in the foothills on the edges of the Willamette Valley. Seablush is a very reliable restoration species that germinates and grows quickly and provides excellent cover and resources for pollinators.

A quarter-acre field of Western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis) in peak bloom in early May. This field is being supported by funds from the Willamette Valley Native Plant Materials Partnership. Seed will be distributed to dozens of groups throughout the valley that are engaged in prairie restoration.

Several species we grow shatter their seed over a period of weeks. Growing them on weed cloth allows us to collect as much seed as possible by vacuuming it off the ground. Here, Western buttercup seeds litter the weed fabric prior to harvest.

When you're trying to grow 12,000 of the same plant and nothing else (there are probably a few weeds in there!), you get to see a lot of variety within species. Here Western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis) shows an unexpectedly common malformation of the flowering stem.

Tyler Ross (right), Biological Science Technician at the Natural Resource Conservation Service Plant Materials Center gives author Ian Silvernail some pointers on operating our new Wintersteiger plot combine. This machine is a total game changer for us in our ability to efficiently and effectively harvest seed from many of the species we grow.

A field of winecup clarkia (Clarkia amoena var. caurina), grown from seed collected on Oregon’s Central Coast. This seed will be used to help restore Oregon silverspot butterfly habitat, a rare butterfly of our coastal prairies. In the wild these plants are usually closer to a foot tall and each have a small handful of blooms. These plants in this production field clearly love the fertilizer and extra care!

A bumblebee enjoying Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum) blooms. These plants will be restored to enhance nectar resources for pollinators, including Fender’s blue butterfly, in mid-elevation prairies in the foothills on the edges of the Willamette Valley.

IAE Habitat Restoration program staff discuss methods for Kincaid’s lupine reintroduction while checking out some of the plants in cultivation. In addition to seed for restoration efforts, the farm is providing us with opportunities to watch plants grow, and make observations that will help inform our approach to native ecosystem restoration. From left to right: IAE Restoration Ecologists Andrew Esterson, Jessica Celis, and Andy Neill; author Ian Silvernail, Restoration Biologist and helper son Rye, and Habitat Restoration Program Director Rebecca Currin.

A bed of first-year Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus oreganus) being grown to support Fender’s blue butterfly habitat restoration in the Eugene West Recovery Zone. Kincaid’s lupine can sometimes resist our best efforts at cultivation, so we’re happy to see a bed that is establishing well. This bed (one of 6 full of this species) should produce seed for many years.