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Seedling picture

Seed Sources - How do we know what will grow here?

"Contrary to popular belief, it's not always best to plant what grows here naturally."

There are two arguments for non-native species which we at Kings Creek Trees believe very strongly:

  1. Native species at one time may have grown best in their native area. However, with climate change, the native species have had their native climate taken away from them and they cannot adapt sufficiently.
  2. Diseases have had a long time to adapt to the native species, so they know how to attack them. This is not the case with non-native species.

What's really important is what's known as the seed source, and its characteristics. The seed source refers to the specific area from which the seed has originated, as well as the characteristics of the stand of trees from which the seed originated.

close-up picture of multiple yearlings in the field

Almost all of our conifer seed comes from mountainous areas. Trees that grow on mountains are capable of growing on very thin soil (close to bedrock), so they are able to find unique ways of obtaining moisture and nutrients through their roots. The soil in our nursery is quite thin in areas (i.e. there is bedrock not far below the surface). This makes them able to thrive in very rocky soil, as well as in deep rich soil.

We ensure our seed originates from cold climates. Often on cold mountainsides, snow slides or melts away, leaving exposed ground. No snow means no insulation and mountainside trees have to be able to survive this. Climate change in our own area has resulted in long periods of winter when there is no, or little, snow combined with extremely low temperatures. The species that are native to our area have difficulty coping with these conditions. Non-native species from mountainous areas are adapted to these conditions.

As mentioned before, we can tell the characteristics of a tree from its seed source. As an example, when we buy Blue Spruce seed, we have a choice between many different characteristics. Some seed sources result in a higher percentage of trees that turn blue, while others might be faster growing, more resistant to drought or perhaps have better needle retention as a cut Christmas tree. These are all characteristics we consider when we order our seed, so we can obtain the best combination of characteristics.

In North America, we don't always have to study specific microclimates to determine if the seed source of a species will thrive in our nursery. There is a calculation we can make: Every 1,000 feet of altitude buys us 500 miles of latitude. In other continents, we have to study the microclimates of seed sources.

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