Plant Selection Case Study
Nick Fuller, Chief Ecological Officer, Natural Communities Native Plants
According to Natural Communities Native Plants' Nick Fuller, seed mixes "are the backbone of your restoration effort."
Competitive seed mixes in natural areas, shorelines and coastlines incorporate a diversity of native plants and adequate seed quantity per square foot. Fuller added, "While flowers are excellent for pollinators, they do not provide as great of competition against invasive species as sedges, rushes and grasses."
Native seed companies offer two seed mix types of community-specific and broad-spectrum. Fuller explained that managers can choose the most effective native plant seed mixes by conducting inventories and assessments that determine a site's ecosystem and plant communities. For example, if an inventory observes a prairie site with full sun (6+ hours) and wet soil moisture, Fuller would recommend Natural Communities' community-specific "Wet Prairie Native Seed Mix" that includes 14% grasses, 53% sedges and rushes and 33% forbs. All the seeds in this community-specific mix should germinate in the appropriate environment achieving a seed quantity per square foot of 133. On the other hand, Fuller anticipates that only 30 of the seeds per square foot of Natural Communities' broad-spectrum "Detention Basin, Raingarden and Bioswale Native Seed Mix" will germinate in a wet prairie community.
Invasive weeds can outcompete many native seed mixes even after strong site monitoring and planning. For these cases, Fuller recommends planting "the Navy Seals of the native plant world" of "Warrior Plants". Warrior plants aggressively spread their roots to prevent invasive weed establishment and erosion. Fuller constructed different lists of warrior plants for communities of Lake Michigan Shoreline, Wet Prairie, Marsh/Emergent, River/Stream Shoreline and Super Flood Tolerant.
Nick Fuller presented his efforts to reduce glyphosate use and manage diverse natural ecosystems during the Lawn & Land Forum's "Plant Selection along Shore and Coastlines" in September of 2020. For the full recording of that webinar, please visit bit.ly/MGGsept10recording.