Regional Native Plant Nursery for Habitat Restoration

Patrick Biber
J.D. Caldwell

The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Botany Section operates a 3000 sq. foot greenhouse that is being used as a Plant Nursery to grow saltmarsh plants, which are being used to restore coastal wetlands.

This program is growing the two most common coastal marsh plants: Juncus roemerianus (black needlerush) and Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass). The tidal marshes in Mississippi are dominated by these two species.

There are presently no readily available sources of native coastal plants within the state. All material used for mitigation and restoration efforts must be obtained by removing them from existing tidal marshes, or by purchasing it from out-of-state commercial growers and suppliers. A local supply of these plants for restoration projects will reduce the impacts of damage or loss of marsh acreage, without introducing species that are not local.

The Plant Nursery is growing plants only from native seeds to avoid genetic problems that could arise from interbreeding the genetic stock of Mississippi with other (e.g., Florida or Louisiana) plant sources. This will help to avoid potential disease risk introduced from other plant stocks.

The Plant Nursery is being funded by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) through the Tidelands Trust Fund and the Gulf of Mexico Community-Based Restoration Partnership. The objective of this project is to re-establish native saltmarsh vegetation within designated restoration areas in the three coastal counties of Mississippi.

Below are pictures of the facilities and process by which the saltmarsh plants are raised from seed until they are of the size required for transplanting to the restoration sites.

GCRL Greenhouse
Inside GCRL Greenhouse with Juncus roemerianus and Spartina alterniflora plants
Collection and cleaning of Juncus roemerianus seeds
Planting Juncus roemerianus seeds
Juncus roemerianus seedlings
Juncus roemerianus in peat pellet
Trays of Juncus roemerianus seedlings
Greenhouse table of Juncus roemerianus in 4 inch pots
Cleaning and sorting Spartina alternifora seeds
Spartina alterniflora seeds ready for storage
Spartina alterniflora seeds in cold storage
Germination of Spartina alterniflora seeds
Young Spartina alterniflora plants in peat pellets
Greenhouse tables of Spartina alterniflora plants in 4 inch pots
Maintenance of marsh plants in greenhouse
Preparation of marsh plants in greenhouse for transport to restoration site
Loading marsh plants for transport to restoration site
Harrison County restoration site on Biloxi Back Bay
Transplanting of marsh plants at restoration site
Equipment used to transport marsh plants to the restoration site
Planting 4 inch pots of Spartina alterniflora at restoration site
Restoration site in Jackson County on Fort Bayou
Juncus roemerianus transplants after 6 months growth
Close-up view of Juncus roemerianus transplants after planting
View of Juncus roemerianus transplants after 6 months growth
Close-up of Juncus roemerianus transplants after 6 months growth
A healthy tidal marsh in coastal Mississippi
Our Partners

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources

Tidelands Trust Fund

This research was made possible in part by funds granted to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory from the Mississippi Coastal Impact Assistance Program, administered by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.