The small guest cottage behind the Fleming house, graciously lent to BR, is bursting at the seams with seeds from the past season. This facility, affectionately referred to as the BR Seed Lab, is a center both to facilitate the quiet diligence of seed cleaners who find their center every Monday morning with tweezers, sieves, and sandpaper, and for the most valuable collection of native seeds in the Madrean Archipelago: The BR Seed Collection.
The BR Seed Collection – How it All Began
Three years ago, in the nascent stages of Borderlands Restoration L3C, restoration practitioners came up with a plan to meet the market need for locally sourced plant materials for restoration. Partnering with agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service injected funding for facilities and labor for propagation and seed collection. Since then, our database has grown to include over 600 collections of seeds from native plants, primarily in the Madrean Archipelago, but in some cases ranging as far as West Texas. Diligent data collection is what sets the BR Seed Collection apart – over 20 different data points are collected for each accession of seeds, including GPS information, soil type, geology, and many more. These data points help inform restoration practitioners in choosing the right plant materials for a restoration site – a crucial part of the restoration process.
Expansion in Seed Collaborations: Highlights from Fall 2015
This past fall saw a incredible increase in the seed collection efforts for our team. We welcomed another seed collector to our staff – Allegra Mount, who came with valuable experience as a seed collector for the BLM in Safford, AZ – and have expanded our internship program to include unpaid botanically-focused internships in Seed Collection and Plant Propagation. Our fantastic interns Perin and Alex joined us throughout the fall to participate in the whole process, from collection to cleaning, to propagation, and finally planting.
With the release of the National Seed Strategy earlier this year, every land manager’s minds are on the what, how, and why of seeds for restoration. We saw a huge boost in activity as our seed collectors were sent across the Madrean Archipelago and beyond, developing relationships as the official seed collectors for different federal partners. This included new partnerships for collection and propagation in National Parks in the region, including Tumacacori National Historical Park, Saguaro National Park, and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Park.
BR Seed Collectors were featured in at least 8 different workshops with non-profit partners. We worked with Gila Watershed Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and Sky Island Alliance to facilitate for groups of volunteer seed collectors. We engaged with over 60 volunteers who put in hundreds of hours of work for these fantastic non-profits!
As a cornerstone of the Borderlands Restoration foundation, Kate Tirion’s Deep Dirt Farm Institute led a tour and seed-focused workshop at her permaculture farm in Patagonia, AZ. The farm’s seed increase efforts are ramping up, with multiple plots of Asclepias spp.’s (Milkweed) germinated for future seed production.
Collaboration with the UofA Extension and Make Way for Monarchs brought professionals to the BR Nursery for a workshop in propagation of Asclepias spp. (Milkweed). They talked about the need to strengthen “seed supply chains” for native species to encourage Monarch population recovery. The resulting report celebrated BR as leaders in Asclepias propagation.
Looking Ahead: What to expect in 2016!
Burgeoning partnerships with other native plant nurseries in the region, expansion of the MAPP Center, hosting of our incredible information database in “the cloud”, pollinator garden workshops across Southern Arizona, production of over 100,000 plants…we have lots to look forward to in 2016! With more opportunities than ever for you to get involved, make sure you follow us on Facebook and sign up for our email list to stay informed!