Native plant materials use and commercial availability in the Eastern United States

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Sara Tangren, Edward Toth

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We conducted an online survey to better understand the practices and needs of native plant materials (NPMs) users east of the Mississippi River, garnering 760 responses. Respondents use NPMs for a diverse array of restoration, infrastructure, and landscaping activities. Respondents expressed a preference for local ecotypes (74%), and almost no interest in cultivars (0.3%). Respondents identified commercial availability as the greatest barrier to their use of local ecotypes. Respondents who use native seeds and prefer local ecotypes are shopping farther afield than their concept of “local” would support. Respondents who think of local as being in-state buy seeds out-of-state 85% of the time. Respondents who buy from the most-popular native seed vendor are, on average, 584 km (363 miles) away. Respondents who buy from the second-most popular native seed vendor are, on average, 1,296 km (805 miles) away. Respondents lack sufficient lead time to have seeds or plants contract grown. Eightythree percent would be willing to pay a premium to obtain local ecotypes. Such poor commercial availability places respondents in a position where they must continually incorporate non-local NPMs into their project sites, risking project failure and/or degradation of natural areas. Potential solutions to the commercial shortage of NPMs include creating an online marketplace; increasing project lead times; improving procurement policies; charging premiums for local ecotypes; conducting needed research; providing technical support; and developing a network of active seed banks. Respondents expect their demand for NPMs to increase, highlighting the importance of addressing these issues now.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program