Prairie Conservation Nursery Programs

Plants and seeds for Salish Lowland Prairie Restoration

SPP continues to be among the most generative organizations for South Salish lowland prairie restoration. SPP receives funding support for Conservation Nursery Program from the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) and Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). Plants produced by SPP’s prairie conservation nurseries are used by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, JBLM, WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, WA Dept. of Natural Resources, and CNLM. We grow prairie plants known to be food and habitat for rare and endangered pollinators, such as the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly; in this way our western Washington plant programs and butterfly program are closely linked.

prairie-panorama

A glorious spring day on the prairie of Joint Base Lewis-McChord was captured by biologist and photographer Rod Gilbert.

Plant-Plug Production

SPP produces plants for prairie restoration at three sites: Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), and Shotwell’s Landing Nursery. Shotwell’s Landing is supported by a Prairie Conservation Crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC), 10 inmate technicians dedicated to prairie restoration at multiple sites in Thurston County. The three nursery sites deliver up to 420,000 plant-plugs annually.

Overall, while increasing production and species diversity, SPP’s Prairie Conservation Nursery Program has maintained impressively high survival rates. The total number of plant-plugs produced since 2009 is also impressive: we have surpassed 1.5 million.

Bri-seeding-demonstration

Graduate student Bri Morningred who coordinates the nursery at WCCW demonstrates using a dispensing tool to sow seeds into plant tubes. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Seed Production

Two new projects were started in 2014-15 to cultivate early blue violet (Viola adunca) for seed production. A combined total of 5,400 square feet are devoted to violets at WCCW and WCC. The infrastructure for these projects was fully funded by JBLM’s Fish and Wildlife program and CNLM. At WCC, the program is located in the Skill Builders Unit (SBU) where it is integrated into the Centralia College horticulture program for inmates with severe cognitive and behavioral challenges.

SBU-violet-planting

A student in WCC’s Skill Building Unit horticulture program plants early blue violets into the new seed-production beds. Photo by Centralia College horticulture instructor Sue Sheldon.

The preliminary harvest numbers for violet seeds are outstanding: we have achieved more than twice the normal harvest rate for this species. 

Excellent-violet-seed-photo

Collecting violet seeds is painstaking, meticulous work. Here you can see the tiny seed pods and seeds; unless ripe seeds are gathered daily, they will spring out of the pods and be lost. Photo by Sue Sheldon.

Training and Education

SPP’s graduate student program coordinators provide frequent and direct guidance and education to inmate technicians. The graduate students serve as the primary liaisons between all partners, including the Washington DOC staff who supervise and counsel the inmates. Since 2010, the Conservation Nursery Program has trained nearly 150 inmate technicians, 14 graduate students have provided program coordination, and 5 corrections staff have served as program supervisors. At the four nurseries, we offered 24 lectures and 97 workshops in a single year.

Blogs on the Prairie Conservation Nurseries

Prairie seeds close up (2016)

Photos from WCCW Work party (2016)

Principle & Practice: Learning and doing science at Shotwell’s (2016)

Team Building for Native Violets at WCC (2015)

Beds for Violets at WCC: Building SPP’s newest conservation nursery! (2015)

Cedar Creek Prairie Conservation Crew (2014)

SPP Conservation Nursery Manual, 4th Edition: The Best Ever! (2014)

Prairie Appreciation Day (2014)

Collaboration at Shotwell’s Landing (2014)

So Close to a Million Plants We Can Almost Taste It (2014)

Fire in the Demonstration Garden (2014)

Conservation Nursery Crew Begins Work at WCCW (2013)

And Then There Were Three: Third Hoop House Complete at Washington Corrections Center for Women (2013)

Working With Offenders at Shotwell’s Landing Nursery (2013)

SPP Conservation Nursery Internship Experience (2012)

Growing Plants and Potential: Stafford Creek Nursery (2012)

A New Season (2011)

Sadie Gilliom, Fawn Harris, and other SPP Program Coordinators teamed together for several work parties picking violet seeds while the incarcerated crew was not available. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Fawn Harris, and other SPP Program Coordinators teamed together for several work parties picking violet seeds while the incarcerated crew was not available. Photo by Ricky Osborne.