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Welcome to the third edition of the Southwest Seed Partnership Newsletter! Keep reading - this is where we share news, events, accomplishments, and all things “seed.” We welcome feedback and suggestions – this is your newsletter. Be sure to visit the events section as we have a Stakeholder Meeting coming soon.

Help Restore Native Landscapes

This newsletter is brought to you by the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) and partners. We are grateful to Southwest Seed Partnership funders: New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM), USDA Forest Service Region 3 (USFS), NM Department of Transportation (NM DOT), Native Plant Society of NM, and the National Park Service (NPS). You can contribute to native seed conservation and production by donating to or signing up to volunteer with the Southwest Office of IAE.

A Look at the 2018 Season:

Native Seed Collection

The Southwest Seed Partnership has been able to make wild collections of native seed over an extensive territory thanks to multi-partner collection teams from IAE (supported by USFS & NM DOT), BLM, NPS, and volunteers. This year we obtained several new permits for accessing open space and natural areas not previously available. The drought in the Southwest at the beginning of the season made wild plants difficult to find and impacted early collections, but once the fall monsoons hit, crews had the opposite challenge of trying to collect the bounty before it all dropped.  

Congratulations to all of our crews for a great seed collection year!  
Crews made over 200 wild seed collections from 55 species, primarily in the Arizona/New Mexico Mountains, the Chihuahuan Deserts, and the Arizona/New Mexico Plateau Ecoregions. A big thanks to our landowner partners who made these collections possible: USFS; BLM; NPS; US Fish & Wildlife Service; White Sands Missile Range; Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos Open Space Departments; Santo Domingo Pueblo; NM DOT; Quivira Coalition; New Mexico Land Conservancy; and many others.
Now that we have all of this seed, what are we doing with it?
Collected wild seed is primarily used to initiate new native seed production fields but also goes to long-term germplasm storage, research projects in NM & AZ, and nursery production and training programs, including the NM Nature in Prisons Project.   
Chirstina Partipilo, Sophie Goss, Melanie Gisler, and Mike Beitner post for a photo while collecting seed in Southern NM.

Native Seed Production

NEW MEXICO:  Improving the availability of pollinator host plants is a priority for the Southwest Seed Partnership. In 2017, collaborators from the Partnership (IAE, USFS, and New Mexico State University) initiated a seed increase project for Thermopsis montana (mountain goldenbanner) for the Southern Rockies Ecoregion.  This montane species is commonly found in the understory of aspen stands in the Southwest. Given that aspen habitat restoration projects are on the rise, providing seed for this forest understory legume is high priority to support pollinators, improve soil nutrition, and develop seed sources for high elevation forbs. Nursery grown seedlings were planted into a production field at the NMSU JT Harrington Research Station in Mora, NM in fall of 2018. Individual source populations of Thermopsis montana are being tracked and monitored separately in this production effort to assess potential variation from one source to the next. Native bees are highly attracted to Thermopsis and are the primary pollinator for this species. To ensure a healthy population of pollinators, bee houses will be installed at the production field in 2019. Golden banner seed harvested from these fields over the next two years will be used by the USFS in high elevation restoration projects in the Southern Rockies Ecoregion.

2019 NM Production Plans: Increase fields are being initiated for 10 additional species (3 grasses & 7 forbs), working with 8 different growers.  
ARIZONA: Our production fields of Bothriochloa barbinodis (cane bluestem), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama), Sporobolus cryptandrus (sand dropseed), and Asclepias subverticillata (horsetail milkweed) yielded seed after one year. In collaboration with the Verde Native Seed Cooperative (VNSC), seed collected in 2016 was grown as plugs and field planted in 2017 with two growers: Yavapai Apache Nation Agriculture Department in Camp Verde, Arizona (native grass fields) and Whipstone Farm in Paulden, Arizona (milkweed). We have also initiated production with Borderlands Restoration in Patagonia, Arizona. They are currently growing plugs of Machaeranthera tanacetifolia (tansyleaf tansyaster) and S. cryptandrus to be planted into production fields this spring. Funding for these production fields was provided by the Tonto National Forest, who will use harvested seed for a variety of restoration projects on the Forest.

Research Highlight

Collaborators with the Southwest Seed Partnership (IAE, NM Department of Transportation, BLM, and a Technical Panel) are working on a project to mitigate dust while also gaining a better understanding of which native species and sources of plant materials are able to survive harsh conditions (saline soils, drought). Our research team has been working to assess Chihuahuan Desert plant communities that possess these attributes and will install and monitor research plots at 5 sites over the next three years. Seed was collected for this project in 2018, and collections continue in 2019. Success rates will be compared for: native seed from commercial and local sources, as well as novel species (that have not been previously commercially produced). This research is expected to improve revegetation techniques in southern NM, particularly for projects on challenging soils.

Stay tuned for new Southwest research being initiated in 2019: seed germination trials, common garden studies, and other restoration research projects.
Chihuahuan Desert revegetation research site on the Lordsburg Playa. Photo by Kimiora Ward.

Upcoming Events

March 12 – 14, 2019 High Altitude Revegetation / SER-Rocky Mountains Conference (Fort Collins, CO)
April 23, 2019  SAVE THE DATE - Annual Southwest Seed Partnership Stakeholder Meeting at the UNM Rotunda Room (801 University Blvd SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106)
July 27 - 31, 2019 Botanical Society of America Botany 2019 Conference (Tucson, AZ)
August 11 - 16, 2019 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting (Louisville, KY)
May 14 - 16, 2019 Seed Collection for Conservation and Restoration Course (BLM Seeds of Success 1730-06) (Boise, ID)
September 9 - 12, 2019 Biennial Conference of Science & Management on the Colorado Plateau and Southwest Region (Flagstaff, AZ)
October 8 - 10, 2019 Natural Areas Conference 2019 (Pittsburgh, PA)
November 8 - 10, 2019 SER-SW 2019 Annual Conference (Tucson, AZ)

ATTENTION - Phytopthora in the Southwest and Tips for Protecting your Nursery Plants

Phytophthora species are fungal-like organisms responsible for several serious plant disease outbreaks including, but not limited to, sudden oak death, Port Orford cedar root disease, and even the Irish potato famine. The presence of these pathogens is consistently associated with human activity and the introduction of nursery stock through restoration or ornamental plantings. Recent work has shown that proper nursery practices can greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of introducing infected nursery stock to our forests and rangelands through restoration plantings. Although Phytophthora spp. are not currently considered serious pathogens in the wildlands of the Southwest, they currently cause disease in agricultural crops in both Arizona and New Mexico and have been devastating in wildlands of other regions. These pathogens warrant concern as we continue to introduce nursery-grown stock into our wildlands. It is therefore of the utmost importance for nurseries to use best management practices and for their partners to ensure these practices are being followed to avoid contamination by pathogens such as Phytophthora spp. 

Some basic guidelines include:
  1. Proper water management: ensuring irrigation water is from a clean source or treated to be free of contaminants such as Phytophthora spp.
  2. Proper sanitation of soil media and growing containers: Soil treatments such as aerated steam or the use of previously sterilized soil help to accomplish this. Growing containers that are reused should be sanitized using proper procedures.
  3. Nursery sanitation and layout designed to minimize risk of the introduction of pathogens: This includes keeping all potted stock at least 2 ft. off the ground and maintaining a clean nursery setting ensuring no outside soil or water may come into contact with nursery stock.
Links to further information and detailed descriptions of best management practices can be found here. Information provided by Nicholas Wilhelmi, USDA Forest Service.

Wild collections available from Southwest seed vendors

A novel way to find promising sites for wild seed collections - Curtis and Curtis Seed scouts native grass stands from an airplane. Photo courtesy Curtis and Curtis Seed Inc, Clovis, NM (8/24/2004).
One of the goals of the SWSP is to connect buyers and sellers of native seed.  A secondary goal is to provide transparency of source information. To that end, when new products become available, we will share them here and in other publications. See below for new availability of wild collected seed by grower by source (Omernik EPA Level III Ecoregion).
Curtis & Curtis Seed – Contact: The following species were collected in NM at elevations ranging from 6,000-9,000 feet.
  • Southern Rockies:  mountain muhly (Muhlenbergia montana) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
  • Arizona/New Mexico Mountains: vine mesquite (Hopia obtusa), desert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides)
  • Southwestern Tablelands: vine mesquite (Panicum obtusum), desert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides)
  • High Plains: blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
Southwest Seed – Contact:    
  • Colorado Plateau: annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus), mariposa lily (Calochortus flexuosus), dusty penstemon (Penstemon comarrhenus), and bluestem penstemon (Penstemon cyanocaulis)  
Granite Seed – Contact:
  • Arizona/New Mexico Plateau: winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), and sand sage (Artemisia filifolia)
  • Sonoran Basin and Range: Desert saltbush (Atriplex polycarpa) and quail bush (Atriplex lentiformis)
Bamert Seed Company – Contact: 
  • Contact vendor for source information: winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), and sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus)
Please contact these vendors directly for questions and purchases.

Partner Spotlight

Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program

Well Pad Seed Needs Assessment

The Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program, our BLM sister program to the NW, recently completed a seed needs assessment focused on well pad restoration. Jennifer Shostrand and Adrienne Pilmanis, in coordination with other BLM staff, developed estimates of recent annual well pad reclamation seed needs and costs (interim and final reclamation, plus repeat seeding) in four states and came up with the following preliminary results: Utah ~44,000 lbs ~$659,000; Colorado ~111,000 lbs ~$1,665,000; New Mexico ~88,500 lbs ~$1,325,000; Wyoming ~104,000 lbs ~$1,560,000. Their results are conservative estimates, and highlight seed needs and use in post-development reclamation. 

Seed Jobs Coming Soon

SWSP Agricultural Liaison based in Santa Fe. 
SWSP 2019 Seed Collection Crews based in Santa Fe, Las Cruces, NM & Springerville, AZ.
Keep an eye on the SWSP website and IAE jobs page for these upcoming job announcements.

TransLATINg Plant Names

Asclepias subverticillata, commonly known as "horsetail milkweed". Photo by Patrick Alexander

In each newsletter, we share the legacy of Carolus Linnaeus’ binomial nomenclature. Interesting information is hidden in Latin names.  Here we highlight horsetail milkweed, Asclepias subverticillata.

Asclepias subverticillata is one those Latin names that sounds more like a witch's spell than a plant. But what does it mean? 

Asclepias, the genus for milkweeds, is named for Asklepios, the Greek God of Healing. This clever name hints at the variety of medicinal and ethnobotanical uses for milkweeds. To name a few, milkweed species in the Southwest have been used medicinally by local Tribes as an emetic; a treatment for warts, burns, scalds, throat and nose congestion; as a respiratory aid; and as an analgesic to relieve headaches (Nabhan et al, 2015). For a plant that is utilized so frequently, it may be surprising to learn that milkweeds can be poisonous if taken in large doses - with varying levels of toxicity depending on species.  

Subverticillata tells us what type of milkweed we have. Comprised of two Latin words, sub means under, below, or almost, and verticillatus means whorled. Together, subverticillata means somewhat or nearly whorled, referring to how Asclepias subverticillata has fewer leaves per whorl than Asclepias verticillata, the whorled milkweed.

The Southwest is a milkweed mecca.  It is remarkable that New Mexico and Arizona alone host 41 of the 76 milkweed species known to exist in the lower 48 states (Nabhan et al, 2015).  Our featured Asclepias subverticillata is one of the most common milkweeds – documented to occur in every county of New Mexico. 

Milkweed seeds are in high demand for both gardening and habitat restoration due to their importance in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, a species in precipitous decline. Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed as their primary larval host plant, meaning eggs are laid on milkweed plants and this is where the larvae feed and grow until they change into adults.  Caterpillars have specialized adaptations that allow them to feed on milkweed leaves and sequester the plant’s toxins, making themselves poisonous without harming themselves. This strategy, combined with their bright coloration, helps monarch caterpillars to avoid predation. Asclepias subverticillata and other milkweeds are popular among pollinators, including monarch butterfly adults, for their copious nectar.  The fall flowering of this species supports migrating and breeding adult butterflies seeking nectar rewards to fuel their long distance southbound flight. 

So Asclepias subverticillata may sound like a witch's spell, but its unique chemistry is a blessing for both people and pollinators.


For information about milkweed toxicity, particularly in rangeland seedings, see: 

Nabhan, G., S. Buckley, and H. Dial. 2015.  Pollinator Plants of the Desert Southwest:  Native Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.).  USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tucson Plant Materials Center, Tucson, AZ.TN-PM-16-1-AZ. 

For more information about growing milkweeds see:  Kaye et al, 2018 and Borders, B. and E. Lee-Mäder.  2014. Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide

Allred, K. Flora Neomexicana II: Glossrium Nomarium. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, 2012. Print.

SWSP on Social Media

Header photo displays BLM crew and volunteers wild-collecting seed at  Red Canyon Reserve in Socorro County, NM.
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1850 Old Pecos Trail, Suite I
Santa Fe, NM 87505

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Southwest Seed Partnership · 1850 Old Pecos Trail · Suite I · Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505 · USA

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