Effort ongoing to support native plant varieties

MARQUETTE – The Hiawatha National Forest greenhouse in Marquette is once again buzzing with activity as volunteers work to plant seeds to help with native plant restoration within the forest’s boundaries.

A total of 35,000 seeds will be planted in the months-long effort – all through volunteer work.

The seedlings will be used in a number of restoration projects throughout the forest. Sites planned for restoration planting on the West Zone of the forest include Sandtown near Nahma, Grand Island National Recreation Area, monarch openings on Stonington and three wildlife openings on the Munising Ranger District.

Plants grown in the greenhouses are native to the national forest and their seeds come solely from within its borders.

A seed cache, collected meticulously over several years time, is stored on-site at the greenhouse, with a number of 20-gallon storage bins filled to the brim with thousands of seeds. A little less than 100 species have been collected.

The native plant restoration projects are meant to return environments in the Hiawatha National Forest that have been altered due to human interaction – such as old farms or culverts – back to their natural state.

The first volunteer event was Jan. 24, when volunteers mixed soil specific for certain species of native plants and filled planting cells with the soil mix for seeding, which will begin Feb. 21.

Tuesday is the next volunteer day, when more soil will be prepped for seeding.

Volunteer sessions scheduled for March 5, March 28 and April 18 will include seeding, reseeding or thinning of germinated plants.

Interested volunteers can help for any amount of time they wish to.

Hiawatha National Forest ecologist Deb Le Blanc said the project is open to people of all ages with a desire to learn and work with native plants. No experience is needed as professionals will work alongside volunteers and explain various aspects of native plant propagation.

The greenhouse is located in Marquette at 1030 Wright St. Volunteer sessions begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at about 3 p.m. A potluck lunch will be held at noon during each session.

For more information on the projects, contact Le Blanc at 387-2512, ext. 20, or email Sue Rabitaille at srborealis@peoplepc.com.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.