All Grown Up

We’ve been growing a bunch of plants for restoration projects, and now many of them are all grown up and ready to be out-planted here in Oregon. We take them out of their nice sheltered greenhouses and throw them out into the harsh world by putting them out on the raised beds. Though we do not have the most extreme winters over here, it is regularly below freezing at night (as evidenced by the nice dusting of frosty dew on the spiderwebs draped across various plants).

With the changing fall colors, it means that the raised beds are gorgeous. I sometimes walk out there on my lunch breaks just to admire some of the plants we have tended out there, getting ready to go out into the world.

We have already sent off many of them to be planted and we are carrying some over into next year. However, we are getting to plant some of them ourselves in the next few months at a wetland/riparian restoration site. Personally, I am a fan of waders so I am looking forward to the out-planting. To get a sense, here are some photos of the restoration as it is now:

We will be lugging boxes of plants for half a mile or longer through marshes so it may be a bit of an adventure. People have suggested using llamas or horses only half-jokingly. We’ll see how that goes.

With winter coming along most of our plant propagation has slowed to a halt. However, we are having to hold over around 12,000 huckleberry unexpectedly. While this may not seem like a big deal, plants grow. The problem with that is that they need more space as they get bigger. More space means bigger pots. Bigger pots means transplanting. 12 THOUSAND huckleberry plants. One at a time. It’s going to take a while. Luckily, our crew is fun to work with and everyone has a good attitude. That and, personally, I love the chance to work outside, even if I may need the occasional break to heat up my hands.

We also have been continuing to clean and process seed. That is an ongoing process and will likely not be done when I leave in January. The amount of Douglas Fir seeds alone is staggering.

Doug-fir seeds

We also process various other species (Port-Orford Cedar, Limber Pine, Whitebark Pine, Western White Pine, Sugar Pine, etc.). The POC (Port-Orford Cedar) cones are from our own greenhouses, which is exciting.

POC Seeds

That said, they are challenging to clean because the male cones (which we are trying to remove) are small but not small enough to easily sieve and they tend to break into little pieces. Patience is handy when cleaning seed. Patience and some good podcasts. Then again, I suppose the same thing could be said of life.

The Sights of Restoration

Hey, it’s Renata again (one of the interns in Oregon). I luckily have a bit more time at Dorena Genetic Resource Center before I have to head out. However, to date, one of the coolest parts of this internship has been getting to shadow the Restoration Services Team or RST (they have their own fun logo and everything). They plan and often help implement restorations after human land use (especially after things like highway or road construction). I’ve had the chance to shadow them a bit as they go to planning meetings and have gotten to visit some of the previously restored sites. A lot of the plants we grow at Dorena go to these restoration projects so it has been fun to see the end result of our work in the greenhouses and out doing seed collections.

Part of what was so cool about shadowing RST was getting to see the decision-making process. There are a ton of moving parts as they work with different government agencies overseeing the larger project (like building a highway), the engineers, the contractors, and all manner of other experts. RST’s work often comes last because you don’t want to put in the plants only to have them trampled by construction equipment (which has sadly happened before), so their timeline is always partly up in the air. They then have to make sure to collect as many local species as possible and whatever they can’t collect there they have to find in nearby areas in the same seed zone. Then you grow them, propagate them, and then get a crew together for out-planting. To give you a sense, for one project they have 12,000 huckleberry ready to go out for planting. That’s just one species. The scale of these projects can be pretty nuts when you look at the number of people working at Dorena. It is also just exciting to have other government agencies prioritize getting local seed sources and try to have as many native species replanted as possible.

Rather than have me drone on about one project or another, I figured I just give you a sense of what we get to see as we work on these projects. We go from planning, to seed collecting, to propagating, to out planting and then to monitoring and we get to do it all in some pretty breathtaking places. So I hope you enjoy!

 

Dorena Sunrise

Mountain of cells for sowing

The crew doing some transplanting

Sunrise in Klamath Falls

Seed collecting in Klamath Falls (with smoke, of course)

Seed collecting in foggy Klamath

Foggy Klamath seed collecting

Klamath area seed collection

Foggy Nestucca

 

Nestucca when the fog cleared up

Part of a restored highway for restoration

Bridge view at restoration site

The view in Pacific City (where we stayed while doing some seed collection)

Haystack rock at Pacific City

Sunset at Dorena

Snapshot from the Begining

Hello! My name is Renata Kamakura and I am one of the CLM interns working for the Forest Service in Oregon. A lot has happened since I started in June but I figured I would give you all a bit of a sense of where I was at when the internship first began. I promise I will catch you up on the last couple of months at a later date. So here you go: when it all began ….

*Time machine moving you back to June 2018*

Hello! I just started work in Cottage Grove, OR a few weeks ago. I had a mad dash to the start of this internship with only a day between when I graduated and the start of the training in Chicago. As such, I spent the first week trying to catch my breath, unpack, and get somewhat oriented. That said, while slightly discombobulated, I still learnt a ton from the people at the Dorena Genetic Resource Center (DGRC). It is an interesting place that has more of a nursery feel than most Forest Service locations but the people are incredible, with both skill and a sense of humor. It also has some remarkable sunrises and sunsets, which I have been thoroughly enjoying since we work four 10-hour days.

Sunset at the Raised Beds

We ended up doing a range of things like splitting ferns (to try to double how many ferns we have to use), thinning species (to help reduce mold spread and infestations), transplanting Port-Orford Cedar (POC) (moving them into larger containers so they can continue to grow), and just general inventorying and cleaning that needs to happen to keep the place running.

One of the Greenhouses

As we go about the day-to-day tasks, we get tid-bits on why we are doing what we’re doing and how it fits into the broader restoration goals. I figured I might as well pass on some of these since they are a bit more interesting than just me regaling you with stories of getting caught in spider webs while contorting myself around POC branches trying to find the tree’s identification number (let’s just say I have never been known for my grace). As an aside, I do have a photo of a weed-mat I managed to get over a yellow jacket nest on a young pine sapling. There was only moderate grumbling from the occupants and a brief stare down between myself and one of the more defensive yellow jackets.

Wasp nest on sapling and under the weed mat, by some miracle

Rather than being due to some kind of herculean bravery or skill on my part it was mostly due to me not noticing the nest early enough, deciding I was in too deep at that point, and then just trying to placate the yellow jackets by softly murmuring to them as I tried to get the mat on properly. I must have looked like a maniac but the weed mat is on and I didn’t get attacked so I’ll consider it a victory. Though I would not recommend trying that at home; I just got really lucky (or perhaps the yellow jackets sensed that I was more just blind than malicious) and yellow jacket stings are not pleasant.  Unfortunately some of my fellow workers were not so lucky and one poor guy got stung at least 5 times.

Tangent aside, one of the interesting things about DGRC is that it is apparently one of only two places in the country that grows ferns from spores. That took me by surprise because there are a lot of places growing plants in the US and you’d figure they’d be able to do it if they can grow everything from giant pines to hundreds of different types of roses. Also, the people working with the ferns at DGRC treat the process with a certain nonchalance and do not make it seem like it was impossibly difficult (which, in retrospect, is more a testament to their humility than anything else). If you do a quick google search you’ll find bunch of articles and videos (which are helpful but their camerawork is less impressive than their knowledge of fern biology) on how to grow ferns from spores. John T. Mickel, in an article he wrote for the New York Times in 1979, just called in a “modest challenge” that admittedly “does take patience and care” but seems doable for the average Joe. Now, all this made me confused as to why only one other place in the states was growing ferns from spores given that you get a ton more individuals that way, but the handy Mr. Mickel shed a bit of light on that. He explains that “A major problem in growing ferns from spores is contamination. Spores of mosses, fungi and algae are everywhere – in the air, on all surfaces, in tap water and in unsterilized soil.” So, as you try to propagate the ferns, you have to try to avoid propagating the “invading hoards” of everything else (Mickel 1979; the language seems a bit dramatic but I suppose one has to really drive home the point). If you are trying to do this on an industrial scale, I can see why it might not be worth the trouble when you can just split the ferns, which only requires some water, soil, and a good knife (basically anyway). It is also not the easiest thing ever to separate out the young fern individuals without damaging their roots to be able to move them into their separate pots. There are lots of little things that make the process challenging and it is really cool to see the people here do it with relative ease (or they are just good at pretending it is easy).

So, there you go, random tidbit of the month: growing ferns from spores at a large scale is hard but if you need some sword ferns DGRC know what they’re doing. That and look at what you are doing when you try to put weed mats on plants when there are  nesting yellow-jackets in the area.

Works Cited

Mickel, J. T. (1979, February 4). From Tiny Spores Big Ferns Grow. New York Times, p. 41. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1979/02/04/archives/from-tiny-spores-big-ferns-grow-big-ferns-grow.html