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Volunteer force propagates native plants for restoration

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Pauline Balducci, an intern studying abroad from Paris, France with the Sauvie Island Habitat Partnership, sets out native plants under a shade cloth in order to acclimate them to the elements. Every Thursday morning from 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers with the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council toil in the Scappoose High School greenhouse, propagating native plants for local restoration projects.

All of the plants grown by the Native Plant Project are indigenous to Oregon and most are indigenous to the watershed.

Currently, the Native Plant Project is focused on gathering seeds from native plants within the region in order to continue propagation efforts into next year.

“Right now we’re trying to maintain weeds and we’re also starting to harvest seeds from around the county,” said Chas McCoy, coordinator for the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council. “There are a few areas we have access to... it’s going out into the natural setting and collecting seeds without having a negative impact on the seed source so we don’t damage native plants in the process and keep a local genetic seed stock.”

McCoy said the project is funded through native plant sales held throughout the year. All funds generated at the sales go back into the nursery.

“We get a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board,” he said. “Most of the funding is generated from the plants that we’re able to sell through the grant.”

The Native Plant Project currently has about four steady volunteers, most of whom are master gardeners. In the past two years, the project has produced about 5,000 plants per year of 50 to 60 varieties, said McCoy. Because of the quality work of volunteers, he said, the project has been growing. In 2008 and 2010, the Native Plant Project produced about 3,000 native plants annually.

“I’d say maybe 1 percent of our plants go out to people’s landscapes, the other 99 percent go out to creekside restoration projects through a project funded through one of our funding agencies. We’ll also donate to a particular effort,” McCoy said. “We’re filling a pretty specific niche.”

The Native Plant Program has been active at the SHS greenhouse since 2007, but is no longer attached to any school program.

The Native Plant Project will hold its next plant sale Saturday, Oct. 12.