Great Basin Plant Selection and Increase Logo. Station Native Wildflower Seed Production Trials



Clint Shock, Erik Feibert, Monty Saunders, and Joey Ishida,
Oregon State University Malheur Experiment Station
clinton.shock@oregonstate.edu; erik.feibert@oregonstate.edu

in cooperation with

Nancy Shaw, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service
nshaw@fs.fed.us

Doug Johnson, USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Lab, Utah State University
daj@cc.usu.edu

Therese Meyer, Great Basin Research Center, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
theresemeyer@utah.gov

Oregon State University Malheur Experiment Station is cooperating with the Great Basin Native Plant Selection & Increase Project, seeking to help provide information for the successful production of native wildflower seed for restoration efforts in the great basin.  There are many cooperators on this project.

Following fire, non-native species tend to invade many burned areas. In the past many burned areas have been reseeded largely with grass species. There is increasing interest by the public, BLM, and the US Forest Service to reseed burned areas with mixtures of grass, wildflowers, and shrubs. Although native forbs (wildflowers) are components of most native communities, their use in re-vegetation has been limited, largely due to inadequate seed supplies. Seed production practices and seeding technology are essential for the use of these species. Commercial supplies of seed are not always available. Information is scarce on how to produce seed. Growers need to know how to plant, control weeds and pests, irrigate if necessary, harvest, and clean seed. Current research at the Malheur Experiment Station and elsewhere seeks to help develop seed production technology. Efforts at the Malheur Experiment Station are focused on weed control and irrigation. We are also mechanizing harvest when possible.

Beardtongue (Penstemon), biscuitroot (Lomatium), buckwheat (Eriogonum), hawksbeard (Crepis), globemallow (Sphaeralcea), milkvetch (Astragalus) and prairie clover (Dalea) species are widely distributed across the Great Basin, increasing biodiversity, improving habitat for many organisms (including sage-grouse), and adding to the aesthetics of western wild lands.

Species included in irrigation and herbicide research studies at the  Oregon State University Malheur Experiment Station at Ontario, Oregon:

Sulfur Buckwheat Production Practices
Sulfur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum, Buckwheat family)
occurs in all western states at elevations from 1,650-10,000 ft. on a variety of moderate to well-drained soils. Pollinators include bees, wasps, and flies. Seed ripens uniformly and is easily harvested and cleaned to 90+% purity. There are 120,000-150,000 seeds/lb. Seed quality and insect predators can be problematic. This species remains green through the summer, reseeds readily, establishes well on adapted sites, and it is a good soil stabilizer.

Sanddune Penstemon
Sand penstemon (Penstemon acuminatus, Snapdragon family) grows only on sandy soils at elevations from 2,150-10,150 ft. It flowers early in the season and is a short-lived perennial. Capsules open soon after ripening and seeds are rapidly dispersed. There are 550,000 seeds/lb. Seed is easily harvested and cleaned to 90% purity. Moist chilling of the seed is required to release dormancy and permit germination. The cold treatment can be satisfied by planting the seed in fall. Emergence occurs in late winter or early spring. The species can be used for restoring sandy areas within its range in the northern Great Basin.

Hotrock Penstemon
Hotrock penstemon (Penstemon deustus, Snapdragon family) occurs in most western states at elevations from 2,600-8,200 ft. There are two varieties. Hotrock penstemon has wide ecological amplitude, but often grows in rocky areas. Seed capsules remain closed at maturity, facilitating harvest. Seeds are very small at 2,900,000 seeds/lb. The seed requires 8-12 weeks of moist chilling to relieve dormancy and permit germination. Hotrock penstemon provides soil stabilization and can be broadcast seeded over rough and rocky areas within its range. It is an attractive plant for roadsides, including steep, rocky road-cut slopes.

Showy Penstemon
Sagebrush penstemon (Penstemon speciosus, Snapdragon family) is widespread in the northern Great Basin on loamy soils at elevations from 3,900 to 10,800 ft. It has very showy blue flowers. Seed capsules retain their seed for several weeks after reaching maturity. There are 508,000 seeds/lb. Seed requires an 8-12 week moist chilling to relieve dormancy. Sagebrush penstemon grows in big sagebrush and may occur as scattered plants or as fairly dense stands. It is an excellent species for adding diversity in sagebrush community restoration.

Clint's 2008 picture of desert parsley at Mann Creek, Idaho.
Fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum, Parsley family) grows on a variety of soils at elevations from 2,300-8,500 ft. in all western states. It is a robust plant with a large, thickened woody taproot. The large seed ripen uniformly and are easily harvested and cleaned. There are 30,000-40,000 seeds/lb. Seed requires 3-4 months of moist chilling to relieve dormancy and permit germination. Plants require well-drained soil. This plant grows very early in the spring so it should have a short irrigation season. Hybridization of fernleaf biscuitroot with other biscuitroot species is uncommon. Biscuit roots are among the earliest forbs to begin growth in spring.

Grey's Lomatium
Gray’s biscuitroot (Lomatium grayi, Parsley family) occurs in most western states on moderately heavy soils from at elevations from 2,300-9,200 ft. The plant has highly dissected leaves and a strong, parsley-like odor. Flowers appear in March-April and are pollinated by flies. The large, uniformly ripening seeds are easily harvested and cleaned. There are 30,000-50,000 seeds/lb. Seeds requires a 3-months moist chilling to relieve dormancy. Good seed production can be achieved in the second growing season. The plant initiates growth very early in spring and becomes dormant by early summer, thus its irrigation requirements are low. Biscuitroot are among the earliest forbs to begin growth in spring.

Clint's 2008 photograph from Mann Creek, Idaho.
Nine-leaf desert parsley (Lomatium triternatum, Parsley family) occurs on variable soils from 2,000 to 8,850 ft. in all Great Basin states. It has a slightly thickened taproot and leaves with minimal dissection. The large seeds ripen evenly and are easily harvested and cleaned. There are 40,000-50,000 seeds/lb. Seed requires a 10-week moist chilling to germinate. Good seed production can be achieved in the second growing season. Nine-leaf desert parsley begins growth very early in spring and enters dormancy by early summer, so it should have a short irrigation season. Biscuit roots are among the earliest forbs to begin growth in spring.

Thread Stalk Milk Vetch
Basalt milkvetch (Astragalus filipes, Pea family) occurs on silty to loamy soils at moderate elevations in the northern Great Basin. It is a tall, erect perennial with pale yellow to creamy white flowers. The pods mature in early to mid-summer. The pods do not ripen uniformly; mature pods and tend to easily fall to the ground. Seed predation by insects is often a problem. Basalt milkvetch is a nitrogen-fixing member of the Pea family. Seed scarification enhances seed germination.

Western Prairie Clover
Western prairie clover (Dalea ornata, Pea family) and Searls' prairie clover (Dalea searlsiae, Pea family) are showy, perennial, pink-flowered plants in the pea family. Western prairie clover tends to occur in the northern portion of the Great Basin, while Searls’ prairie clover tends to occur in the southern portion of the Basin. Western prairie clover is a nitrogen-fixing member of the Pea family.

Tapertip Hawksbeard
Tapertip hawksbeard (Crepis acuminata, Sunflower family) occurs in most western states on variable soils and at over a wide range of elevations. Its yellow flowers bloom in spring and early summer. Seed maturation is several weeks later. Insect predation can be a factor for this species. Inconveniences are indeterminate seed maturation and very fluffy, wind borne seed. Tapertip hawksbeard is an important food source for sage- grouse.

Gray hawksbeard (Crepis intermedia, Sunflower family) is found in all western states. Gray hawksbeard has not been grown commercially.It may be plagued by insect predation, and like tapertip hawksbeard, seed maturation is indeterminate. Hawksbeards and other members of the Sunflower family that produce milky juice are considered important food sources for sage-grouse.

Orange Globe Mallow
Globemallow (Sphaeralcea spp., Mallow family) includes several species across the Great Basin on variable soils and from low to moderate elevations. Bright orange to salmon colored flowers appear in spring and summer. Seed ripening is indeterminate. There are approximately 500,000 seeds per lb. Globemallows are particularly important for drier sagebrush and salt desert communities where few native forb species occur.  Seed production research is taking place at the Malheur Experiment Station on Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia, Sphaeralcea coccinea, and Sphaeralcea parvifolia.

Gooseberry leafed globe mallow
Red globe mallow
Small flower globe mallow
Gooseberry leafed globe mallow
Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia
Red globe mallow
Sphaeralcea coccinea
Small flower globe mallow
Sphaeralcea parvifolia

Through the Great Basin Native Plant Selection and Increase Project, collaborative on-going research and partnerships are focused on increasing the supply of native plant materials and on development of technology transfer products. It is our hope that this will create and stabilize markets for the native seed industry while restoring important native plant communities.

For more resources for growers, follow the links below.

Related OSU Malheur Experiment Station Publications

C. Parris, C.C. Shock, E. Feibert, and N. Shaw. 2010. Sulphur-flower Buckwheat - Eriogonum umbellatum (ERUM), Sustainable Agricultural Techniques: Native Plant Seed Production. Oregon State University Extension Service, Corvallis. EM 9017.

Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, L.D. Saunders, and N. Shaw. 2010. Native Wildflower Seed Production with Limited Subsurface Drip Irrigation. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, 2009 Annual Report:193-209.

Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, and N. Shaw. 2010. Native Perennial Forb Tolerance to Rates and Mixtures of Postemergence Herbicides. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, 2009 Annual Report:210-212.

Shock, C.C., J. Ishida, E.B.G. Feibert, and N. Shaw. 2010. Native Perennial Forb Tolerance to Repeated Annual Applications of Postemergence Herbicides. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, 2009 Annual Report:213-217.

Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, L.D. Saunders, and N. Shaw. 2010. Emergence of Native Plant Seeds in Response to Seed Pelleting, Planting Depth, Scarification, and Soil Anti-crusting Treatment. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, 2009 Annual Report:218-222.

Shock, C.C., Feibert, E.B.G., Saunders, L.D., and Shaw, N. 2009. Native Wildflower Seed Production with LImited Subsurface Drip Irrigation. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1094: 157-176.

Shock,C.C., Feibert, E.B.G., and Shaw, N. 2009. Native Perennial Forb Tolerance to Rate and Mixtures of Postemergence Herbicides. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1094: 177-179.

Shock, C.C., Ishida, J., Feibert, E.B.G., and Shaw, N. 2009. Native Perennial Forb Tolerance to Repeated Annual Applications of Postemergence Herbicides. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1094: 180-184.

Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, L.D. Saunders, and N. Shaw. 2008. Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Native Wildflower Seed Production. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1087: 183-196. 

Shock, C.C., J. Ishida, and E.B.G. Feibert. 2008. Native Wildflowers Grown for Seed Production Show Tolerance to Conventional Postemergence Herbicides. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1087: 197-203.
 
Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, L.D. Saunders. 2008. Scarification of Basalt Milkvetch (Astragalus filipes) Seed for Improved Emergence. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1087: 204-205.


Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, L.D. Saunders, N. Shaw, and A. DeBolt. 2007. Seed production of native forbs shows little response to irrigation in a wet year. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1075. p 13-20.

Shock, C.C., J. Ishida and C. Ransom. 2007. Tolerance of seven native forbs to preemergence and postemergence herbicides. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Special Report 1075. p 21-32.

Shock, C.C., J.K. Ishida, C.V. Ransom. 2006. Identification of Herbicides for Use in Native Forb Seed Production. Oregon State University, Malheur Experiment Station Special Report 1070: 35-38.

Shock, C.C., E.B.G. Feibert, L.D. Saunders. 2006. Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Native Forb Seed Production. Oregon State University, Malheur Experiment Station Special Report 1070: 39-41.

Work Related to Native Wildflower Seed Production By Others

Forb and Shrub Seed Production Guide for Utah

Pollination, bee biology

Western Colorado native plant seed production

Pesticides for native plant and native plant seed production in Colorado

Revegetation equipment catalog

Grass Seed Production Guide for Utah

Other links including some seed sources