Native Plant Materials

Research in the lab focuses on understanding and increasing the availability of genetically diverse, appropriately adapted native plant material for common, vulnerable, and rare species. Specific projects include :

  • Understanding how to produce and use genetically diverse native plant materials for restoration (Basey et al. 2015; St Clair et al. 2020; Kucera et al. in prep) This includes a review paper outlining 10 rules that can be applied to help maintain genetic diversity through the native plant production process (with Jeremie Fant and MS student Adrienne Basey St Clair), and two case studies using the tools of molecular ecology to follow genetic diversity from wild populations through production and restoration use. One was with Castilleja levisecta (in partnership with the Institute for Applied Ecology, with Jeremie Fant and MS students Adrienne Basey St Clair) and the other (still in-progress) is with Penstemon pachyphyllus (in partnership with the US Forest Service, with Jeremie Fant and MS student Katie Kucera).
  • Assessing capacity in the United States native plant industry to inform germplasm research, development, and production (White et al. 2018) Large quantities of diverse and appropriately adapted native plant germplasm are required to facilitate restoration globally, yet shortages can prevent restorations from attaining desired species diversity and structure. An extensive native plant industry has developed in the United States to help meet these demands, yet little is known about its capacity to support germplasm needs. We conducted the first comprehensive and quantitative assessment of the native plant industry in the United States, including 841 vendors nationwide and the species they make available for restoration. Of the approximately 25,000 vascular plant taxa native to the United States, we found that 26% are sold commercially, with growth form, conservation status, distribution, and taxonomy significantly predicting availability. In contrast, only 0.07% of approximately 3,000 native nonvascular taxa are sold commercially. We also investigated how demand for germplasm to support high‐quality restoration efforts is met by vendors in the Midwestern tallgrass prairie region, which has been targeted extensively by restoration efforts for decades. In this well‐developed native plant market, 74% of more than 1,000 target species are commercially available, often from vendors that advertise genetically diverse, locally sourced germplasm. We make recommendations to build on the successes of regional markets like the tallgrass prairie region, and to fill identified gaps, including investing in research to support production, ensuring more consistent and clear demand, and fostering regional collaboration. This paper was published in Restoration Ecology in 2018, and the data has been incorporated in the Federal Highway Administration’s Ecoregional Revegetation Application (ERA). The original data for all vendors and species used in the ERA tool is available as  here: ERA Vendor Table FINAL.PDF (please note that file is 8MB and 834 pages long).