River's Down, So Let's Plant!

We finally had the big day! I've been working with partners from the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation and the University of Minnesota in designing and getting ready for the cottonwood restoration experiment since last October. Last Thursday, we finally got to put some cottonwoods in the ground at Lilydale Regional Park.

Putting the finishing touches on a planting site.

I was relieved that while the record flooding delayed our planting by over a month, it at least killed the nettles that earlier in the spring had blanketed the forest opening we were planting in. With the nettles dead, bare mineral soils were exposed, perfect for cottonwood planting. The ground was also moist from the flood, again good for the young cottonwoods. The conditions looked ideal.

We carefully laid out the flags. White flags striped with red were for live stake cuttings that would have tubing protecting them.

Our cottonwoods were planted in plots placed in a forest opening and in a field. Individual plots had either 50 seeds, 5 live stake cuttings volunteers collected last winter, or 5 rooted cuttings to help us determine which propagation method will be most successful. Some  plots were fenced and others received tree tubes so we can study the best way to protect the young trees. To help everyone keep track where everything should be planted we color coded each planting type and put corresponding flags around the site.

St. Paul's Eco Rangers helped prep the site and plant.

50 seeds were carefully raked into the soil.

Going full circle, a volunteer that helped collect cuttings excitedly planted them.

Plantra donated protective tubing for the young trees.

We will be tending to and monitoring the plots throughout the growing season to track how well each of the different plots are doing, which will help us determine the best way to plant cottonwoods throughout the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Thanks for your help, Eco Rangers and volunteers! We're looking for more volunteers to take care of the young trees. If you're interested, contact Maria.