This article originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of ESF's newsletter, Tidal Exchange.
In the plant world timing is everything. Temperature and moisture must be just right for plants to grow, and these criteria vary with the changing seasons. For Stewardship Specialist Bree Candiloro, this means paying careful attention to the natural world around her as she determines the best time to plant a seed, or to go collecting fresh seeds to sow. It also means simulating wildfires and winters.
Bree implements a ‘disturbance regime’ for a few special plants that require a natural event to wake their seeds from a dormant state, allowing them to germinate. For oaks it means placing acorns in the refrigerator to trick them into thinking they’ve survived a cold snap – the chill tells these acorns that the time is right to start growing. For manzanita it means making a ‘manzanita lasagna’ (layering soil, manzanita berries, more soil, pebbles and pine needles in a fireproof pot) then setting it on fire to simulate the natural wildfires that trigger it and other chaparral plants to start growing.
Disturbance regime lets Bree raise all sorts of plants for restoration work, including elderberry, ceanothus, and coffeeberry—plants that often won’t produce until a winter or wildfire passes through. Using this technique helps grow the plants needed to restore habitats like oak woodland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral by waking the seeds of key vegetation. Once seeds start growing we can mature them in the greenhouse, giving them a stronger chance of survival in the wilds of the Elkhorn Slough watershed.
The amount of seeds ESF and ESNERR are capable of harvesting is in large part thanks to the dedication of the greenhouse volunteers—their many hours of dedication let us accomplish so much to make the watershed a wonderful place for people and animals alike.
If you want to learn more about disturbance regime, or the native plants raised in the greenhouse, consider attending ESF and ESNERR’s second annual Native Plant Fair in October. It will be a chance to learn about more plants, how to care for them, and even a chance to purchase them for your own home garden.