Filling the Void of Adapted Plant Releases for the Southeastern United States

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USDA NRCS | 1/25/2019

Successful conservation plantings depend on many variables, most of which are beyond human control. One critically important factor within human control is the use of well-adapted and performance tested native seed sources. The use of regionally adapted native seed increases the chances of long-term success and survival of conservation plantings while reducing the costs associated with reseeding failed attempts or conducting multiple plantings over time to compensate for reduced performance of low quality or non-adapted material.

The commercial native seed market has a void of regionally adapted species for the southeastern United States. Most commercially available native seed sources originate from plant materials collected in the prairie regions of the central and western United States. Use of this material in the southeast has resulted in stand failures or weak stands of native vegetation that do not persist over time. The NRCS in Louisiana specifically noticed this trend in restoration efforts of coastal prairies and requested the development of regionally adapted species for use in restoration efforts in the region. The Plant Materials Program, through its network of plant materials centers and partnering agencies, has moved forward to address this need.

The East Texas Plant Materials Center (ETPMC) has partnered with the Texas Native Seeds program, the United States Forest Service, and the Stephen F. Austin Pineywoods Native Plant Center to develop a core mix of important native plant species for use in conservation plantings throughout the southeastern United States. Plant collections from across the region are being evaluated at the ETPMC for performance and seed production. Selected material from these evaluations will be tested for adaptation across Land Resource Region P at plant materials centers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. Land Resource Region P dominates the southeastern United States and comprises two critically important declining habitats: longleaf and shortleaf pine eco-systems. The longleaf and shortleaf pine eco-systems are both fire evolved habitats comprised of forested grasslands that provide critical habitat for wildlife, store carbon to combat climate change, and provide healthy soils that improve water quality and prevent soil loss. Providing adapted and tested native understory seed for conservation plantings is critical to restore these declining habitats and improve ecosystem function.

Species list chart image

A list of species that have been released or are in evaluation is provided below with their current status and projected completion dates.