Native Plant Propagator Workshop – Live Staking and Hardwood Cutting

Back in December, Forterra hosted a live staking and hardwood cutting workshop at Titlow Park in Tacoma.  After sporadic bouts of rain, we were lucky to have a beautiful December morning to learn more about propagating our own native plants for our restoration sites.

Why use live stakes and hardwood cuttings for native plant restoration?

Removing invasive plants
Removing invasive plants to make room for live stakes

Native plants have evolved for thousands of years and adapted to the soil, climate, and ecological conditions of the region.  This means that they are well-suited to take on not only long bouts of wet weather with low light, but also the dry Pacific Northwest summers that challenge the survival of non-native plants.  Because natives are so well adapted to these conditions, it means that they require less care and maintenance than non-native plants – this saves us time and money in our restoration projects.

Native plants can be sourced in a variety of ways such as in pots, plugs, as bare roots, from seeds, or from cuttings.  Each of these has advantages and disadvantages.  One of the main advantages of using live stakes and hardwood cuttings for your restoration projects is that these materials are cheap, often just costing an investment of your time, easy to store and transport, and easy to plant.

When is the best time to take cuttings and plant live stakes?

The best time to collect plant material to live stake is from late fall through early spring.  This is when plants in the Pacific Northwest are dormant.  This is also the best time to plant live stakes because they need fairly wet soil when planted.  This helps the stake establish new roots, and it makes planting much easier than in hard, dry soil.

What things should I consider when collecting live stakes or hardwood cuttings?

The first thing to know is that not all native plants are will propagate well as stakes or from cuttings.  While it’s OK to experiment some, and we encourage you to talk to other stewards, volunteers, neighbors and restoration professionals to share what works, it’s good to have a few “go-to” plants that we know do well.  These are listed below:

Native plants that propagate well from live stakes*

Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)

Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana)

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Willows (Salix spp.)

Elderberries (Sambucus spp.)

Spirea/Hardhack (Spiraea douglasii)

Native plants that propagate well from hardwood cuttings*

Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Willows (Salix spp.)

Elderberries (Sambucus spp.)

Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)

Orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa)

Indian-plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)

Mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)

Wild blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Spirea/Hardhack (Spiraea douglasii)

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Western yew (Taxus brevifolia)

Western redcedar (Thuja plicata)

What’s the difference between a live stake and a cutting?

Willow stake bundle
Willow stake bundle

At this workshop, we learned that live stakes can be planted right away – on the same day in fact.  Because of this, live stakes tend to be thicker and longer than cuttings.  While typical thickness varies from ½ in – 1 ½ in, for live stakes, the thicker the better because we “plant” them using a rubber mallet.  Stakes should be about 3 feet long (see photo).  We worked with willow and red-osier dogwood for this workshop, but we noted that spirea stakes planted nearly a year ago are doing very well.

Cuttings, on the other hand, aren’t planted immediately.  These are from species that behave differently and need to be held with their root-side in moist sawdust or soil in a cool, dark place for a few months.  After a while, these form a callous and will begin to send out roots.  Once they begin to root, pot them up in their own one-gallon containers, move to a place where they can get light and keep them watered.  By doing this, you can have hundreds of plants for your site next year.  This is also good motivation to get some more area cleared from invasive plants during those dry summer months.  Because they receive this extra care, cuttings are much smaller than stakes.  At a minimum, they should be the thickness of a pencil, and about 8 inches long (see photo).  We worked mainly with salmonberry for the workshop.

Salmonberry cuttings
Processing salmonberry cuttings

In total, more than 26 people attended this workshop.  It was a great mix of Green Tacoma Partnership Habitat Stewards, community members, and even Washington Conservation Crews!  Everybody learned a lot and participants went home with cuttings to care for and prepare for later planting in GTP restoration areas.

Forterra is planning to offer similar workshops throughout 2013.  Of course, it is difficult to take cuttings if you don’t know what a plant is, so we’ll be including a winter twig ID walk, native and invasive plant ID walks and practices, as well as seed collection activities.  You can find out more about these opportunities, as well as connect to regular GTP work parties through CEDAR.

*Adapted from “Grow Your Own Native Landscape: A Guide to Identifying, Propagating, & Landscaping with Western Washington Native Plants.” Michael Leigh. WSU Extension. 1999.

This workshop was made possible through funding from the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program.  This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


The Art of Tree Management

“We managed light, we paint with light, and we paint with shade in our trees.”

A couple walks through the light and shadows created by an urban forest. Photo credit to Natalie Cheel

This is how Dr. Kim Coder begins his recent discussion of tree management on Arbor Views, the podcast for the International Society of Arboriculture.

What a unique way to describe how arborists integrate trees into our environment! They work with the absence and presence of light yet, their art sets its course in a potential stage, and arborists must continue to negotiate with the trees themselves in order to manipulate their benefits and obstacles.

“All the benefits we derive from trees, many of those things actually are a proxy for how healthy the crown is, how healthy the green stuff is. We can make bigger stronger trees …which is what arbor care is all about”

Several simple models help us develop each tree’s potential growth. This gives us better clues to evaluate how our own trees are doing. In fact, 78-82% of the weight mass of a tree is from water:

“If you look at a tree, if we had infrared vision, we could see that in a nice sunny day, it’s a fountain of water … below the leaves, coming from that crown is just a bubbling cauldron of water vapor.”

That description illustrates how Dr. Coder found that about 80% of all variation in tree development is due to water – whether there’s too much or too little or how the aeration process for the water vapor is managed.

This type of research demonstrates the greatest tool we have to manipulate the soil or the branches, and guide the tree as our paintbrush. But also, this research teaches us that more patience is necessary for letting the tree figure out its issues.

Who knew tree scientists are artists painting the canvas of our cities with light!

Yoga in the Woods?!

This guest post was written by Chris Blado, who leads the Kid Yoga Fun Club along with Dana

Here’s a riddle:  What does yoga have in common with environmental restoration?  The answer, according to local yoga instructor Dana Hein-Skaggs of Kid Yoga, is that both can be enjoyed by people of all ages in the beautiful natural areas of the Puget Sound region.  Since November of last year, I’ve been helping Dana with her unique program for kids, the Kid Yoga Fun Club (KYFC).  At these events, held twice a month in scenic parks around the Seattle area, kids learn fun and relaxing yoga techniques, explore natural areas on educational nature walks, and get their hands dirty pulling invasive weeds.  So far we’ve visited several unique Redmond parks, from the sprawling Watershed Preserve to the tucked-away woods of Viewpoint Neighborhood Park.  Earlier this summer, we also did yoga on the beach at Discovery Park in Seattle, where we learned about feeder bluffs and erosion processes, and tried to tackle that age-old question of just who makes those cool driftwood huts on the beach.

Want to join in the fun? Head over to the Kid Yoga website and look for “Kid Yoga Fun Club FREE EVENTS” listed in the announcements, and RSVP so they know to bring you a yoga mat!

(thanks Julia Bebrov for these great photos!)

Mike Town Wins National Award for Environmental Education

We’ve been hearing about Mike Town’s great work for years, so we were thrilled to hear about the incredible award he won last week for his work with environmental science students at Redmond High School. He was presented with the $25,000 inaugural Green Prize in Environmental Education from the NEA Foundation last Monday, and was the unanimous choice for the award of a very prestigious panel.

From the Seattle Times: “Town’s program, “Cool School Challenge,” shows kids how to do energy audits of their school buildings and, using math and science, reduce the carbon footprint by powering down computers at night, turning out lights that aren’t being used, recycling, composting and a range of other strategies. About 150 participating schools across the country have saved an estimated 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Many of his students also happen to be Green Redmond volunteers.

The NEA Foundation is an independent public charity that offers grants and programs to support educators’ efforts to close the achievement gaps, increase classroom innovations, provide professional development, and salute excellence in education.

Congratulations, Mr. Town!

The Art of Blackberry: UW Students Transform Invasives into Sculpture

Students in the UW’s School of Forest Resources combined restoration with art for a project in Jon Bakkar’s “Introduction to Restoration Ecology” course.

Amy Lambert, who teaches a class on art and restoration at UW Bothel, led the students in an environmental art project using blackberry canes they cleared from the Union Bay Natural Area. Students from her own class also worked at the site and created their own works of art from the blackberry canes. “The activities were about removing invasive species and transforming the material into sculptural forms,” Lambert says. “In addition, performance art was used to call attention to the historic context of Union Bay Natural Area. By engaging in inventive strategies, students demonstrated their concerns for the natural environment while challenging public perceptions about the role humans have played in shaping the landscape.”

Read more about this collaboration in the UW’s University Week.

Park(ing) Day a success!

parkingday_image.phpWe had a great time last Friday at the Green Seattle Partnership Park(ing) Day spot. We had a prime location downtown right next to the Cascade Agenda Cities Program, Cascade Bicycle Club, Transportation Choices, and Zip Car. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

We promoted Green Seattle Day (Nov. 7th), talked to people about public space and urban forests, played bean bags, and hung out in a tiny urban oasis on 1st Avenue. Check out the link to a video of Andrea getting interviewed for the news!



The KOMO reporter couldn’t resist playing a little bean bags with us.

Click here for the clip of Andrea getting interviewed! (the interview was a lot longer than the tiny clip that made it onto tv . . . she was very on-message)

For more info on park(ing) day, and photos from spots around the world, check out their official website.

Urban Forestry Class @ North Seattle CC

Survival RingsExplore the urban forest as you never have before and gain restoration skills in this hands-on course. These amazing greenspaces provide a retreat from the city, essential habitat for a variety of wildlife, pollution removal from our neighborhoods, and increased quality of life. The urban forest is one of Seattle’s greatest natural resources and we play a key role in its health and survival. Topics include Forest Ecology, Plant Identification, Forest Restoration and Community Engagement. Engage with others in your community and neighborhood in this exciting experience. Clock hours available for teachers. Register HERE today.