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It’s March, and among the last webs of crisp, broken frost, true leaves are emerging and plugs will soon be planted. While some of the season’s phenology is still cloaked in leaf litter, we wanted to take a breath and highlight IAE's Northwest Plant Materials Program and the staff who make this growth possible.
For those who are unfamiliar with our program, the Northwest Plant Materials Program at IAE works with partners across the Willamette Valley and Oregon Coast to increase the quality and availability of native plant materials, particularly native seed. Through targeted wild seed collections and the coordination of source-identified seed amplification, our team is part of a network of organizations that are working to increase species diversity and genetic diversity in native plant materials.
What does this look like at the crux of late winter? Well at the farm, the Allium amplectens is leafing out, while much of our team is busy preparing for another year of wild seed collection. In the last pauses of winter, our Plant Materials staff shared some of the successes that encapsulated this year’s harvest:
Alexis Larsen, Northwest Native Seed Partnership Coordinator and Interim Plant Materials Program Director
In mid-January we hosted the 1st Native Plant Materials Virtual Conference with presentations on seed bombs, oak woodland restoration, pollinators, and so much more to an audience of nearly 500 attendees! As the lead coordinator for the conference, the planning and implementation of the conference really put my skills to the test and I'm particularly proud of how it turned out, especially with last-minute technological issues. I hope we can host another conference in the future and continue to make connections with other native plant material producers, restoration ecologists, and seed researchers throughout the country.
Morgan Franke, Plant Materials Program Coordinator
This past fall we went through our annual seed mix process to distribute seed to different restoration sites throughout the Willamette Valley. As the coordinator for this huge endeavor, I led the procurement, organization, and distribution of over 1,300 pounds of seed! Being able to connect the seed from so many amazing growers and producers throughout the valley, as well as from the Willamette Valley Native Plant Partnership, to all of the amazing restoration work IAE is conducting was a really exciting process. I'm already looking forward to this year's seed mixing operation!
Mara Friddle, Farm Manager, Plant Materials Program
I am currently riding high on the success of our Kincaid's lupine plug grow-out in the greenhouse. They are robust and the germination rate is very high! The wildly fluctuating spring temperatures at the farm are particularly challenging, as we need certain weather conditions to be perfect for field prep and maintenance practices to occur. We have to work hard to protect the new germinants at the farm from dangerously low temperatures as well.
James McAuliffe, Farm Technician, Plant Materials Program
Over the past growing season, I have had the opportunity to carefully observe and monitor the plants the Institute for Applied Ecology has been growing. I have experienced great joy in fostering and attending to the plant’s needs, listening to what they ask, and helping to facilitate their future generations to return to natural areas. This past year it was great to have contributed to these efforts for plants like Lupinus oreganus, Lomatium nudicaule, Allium amplectens, and many more.
Sophie Linden, Plant Materials Technician
My own successes seem much smaller than the plants that set seed under the pressures of increasing heat, yearly predation, and flash photography. This year our seed collection crew made a record 90 wild collections for nearly a dozen projects, with the chance to scout for species like Sericocarpus rigidus and Horkelia congesta. With that said, I relay any successes to the understory, meadow, and roadside ditch native forbs that continue to intelligently do their thing.