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 

Inventorying an ‘Industrial Flora’

Shipping containers are stacked like Legos. From all over the world, they have arrived at the Garden City Terminal, at the Port of Savannah in Georgia. About a third of the plant species growing there are also from around the world – they are non-native. Some are new to Georgia and the U.S. altogether. That’s…  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 

American Ginseng, in the Forest and in the Marketplace

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a plant of great value. Tens of thousands of pounds are harvested from the wild each year. But the average harvest amount has dwindled, while price has skyrocketed. “It’s pretty unusual that the more effort put towards producing something, the less is produced,” says USDA Forest Service researcher Greg Frey.…  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 

Timing Prescribed Fire to Maximize Longleaf Pine Growth

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) needs fire to thrive. But if seedlings burn too late in the growing season, they may not have enough energy to re-grow their scorched leaves and replenish their starch reserves before spring of the next year. “When seedlings are so short that a prescribed fire is likely to scorch all of…  More 

FIA in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The 49th Annual Agriculture and Food Fair of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Agrifest, was held on the island of St. Croix in February. Agrifest is the largest agriculture and food explosion and celebration in the Caribbean – drawing thousands of fairgoers from around the world. USDA Forest Service scientists Tom Brandeis, Humfredo Marcano-Vega, and Kathleen…  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