Getting Nuts for Clean Water

Volunteers collect native tree seeds for use in habitat restoration

10-01-2004 // Kelly Senser

THIS FALL, volunteers throughout the nation are expected to gather tens of thousands of pounds of acorns and other native tree seeds. Why this nutty behavior? These concerned citizens are helping to provide foresters with the stock they need to grow seedlings and replenish riparian tree stands, which have suffered due to development, nonnative species invasions and other threats.

"Native trees create the perfect streamside buffer, acting as a sponge for pollutants and slowing runoff flow to reduce soil erosion," says Bryan Seipp, coordinator of Growing Native, a seed-collection program of the Potomac Watershed Partnership and the Potomac Conservancy. Trees also help clean the air and provide important wildlife habitat.

If you'd like to participate in this autumn's harvest and live in one of the mid-Atlantic states, visit the Growing Native website,, for a list of volunteer opportunities, as well as useful tips for identifying and collecting mature seeds. If you live in another part of the country, contact your state's department of natural resources, forestry department or extension service to learn what seeds are being sought in your region and whether sites have been established for their collection. Oftentimes, desired species can be harvested right in your own backyard—which is also a great place to sow native seeds. Once mature, the trees will provide not only shelter for wildlife but food in the form of blossoms, fruits and nuts.

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