Why Native Plants Are Best

This article was written to celebrate Native Plant Month in Arkansas. It was originally published in Our Ozarks. In 1733, Peter Collinson, a botanist and cloth merchant, walked with great excitement to the ship docks in London. He picked up two boxes of seeds from an American farmer named John Bartram. With these exotic seeds,…  More 

New Zones Delineate Seed Source Regions

Plant seeds are the crucial starting point for innumerable conservation projects, from backyard butterfly gardens to large reforestation projects. For the USDA Forest Service and its many partners, tree, shrub, and herbaceous plants’ seeds and seedlings are needed in large numbers for forest restoration and land management work. “In any such effort, it is important…  More 

Closer to Understanding Enigmatic Mussel Declines

Just by existing and eating, mussels improve water quality. They are filter feeders, which means they eat small pieces of organic matter that float past them. But mussels are dying, often in streams that otherwise seem healthy. Many streams that formerly supported diverse mussel communities now are essentially defaunated. These events are enigmatic because other…  More 

White Oak Regeneration in Canopy Gaps

In February 2020, USDA Forest Service scientist Stacy Clark planted 720 white oak (Quercus alba) seedlings on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. “White oak is declining in abundance across the eastern U.S., and we are concerned that wildlife species and industries around cooperages, distilleries, and flooring will be negatively affected without proactive…  More 

Red Spruce Restoration

The study of how, or if, a species is genetically adapted to its environment is called genecology. USDA Forest Service plant physiologists Kurt Johnsen and John Butnor, with biological scientist Chris Maier, are conducting genecology and molecular genetic studies across the range of red spruce (Picea rubens) in a cooperative study with Steve Keller of…  More 

Digging Deep for Crayfish Clues

Kneeling in a wet prairie, arm extended to the armpit in a muddy hole, most biologists would quickly arrive at the thought, “There’s got to be a better way.” So it’s not surprising that, when it comes to sampling for burrowing crayfishes, researchers have devised some creative solutions. In the southeastern U.S. – the global…  More 

Black Locust & Drought

With its symbiotic bacteria, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) makes its own nitrogen fertilizer – and can share it with other tree species. “In early successional temperate forests, symbiotic nitrogen fixation is often the main source of new nitrogen,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Chelcy Miniat. But drought could slow the rate of symbiotic nitrogen fixation,…  More 

Genetics of Shortleaf and Longleaf Pine in Seed Orchards

Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystems have been dwindling for decades. Restoration is a huge priority for the USDA Forest Service, the Longleaf Pine Alliance, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, and many others. Restoration requires seed, and on National Forest System lands the seed comes from USDA Forest Service seed orchards. The…  More 

Workshop on Shortleaf Pine in the Southern Appalachians

On March 3 and 4, 2020, about 25 silviculturists, foresters, fire management officers, timber specialists, and other USDA Forest Service experts gathered for a two-day workshop on shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata). In the southern Appalachians, shortleaf pine restoration is a major priority for national forests and others. The species has an extensive range but its…  More 

Silviculture to Restore Southern Fire-Adapted Pines

Native, mature southern pine ecosystems are dwindling on the landscape, and the plants and animals that depend upon them are in trouble as well. “Living and working in Arkansas, I sometimes forget that shortleaf pine as far as the eye can see is uncommon outside of this area,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Jim Guldin.…  More