Seed Collection for Future Forests

Gina Pannunzio

Written for The Egret Newsletter – Volume 34 – Number 4 – December 2018

Windsor-Essex County is part of the most biodiverse area in all of Canada, the Carolinian Life Zone. This area is home to just over 70 native trees and shrubs that create unique forested landscapes and habitat. While the Essex Region Conservation Authority has planted more than 6 million trees and achieved 8.5% natural areas coverage, more action is needed to reach our 12% target by 2020. One way to achieve this is by continuing to plant trees, but it is also critical for tree growers to have a consistent supply of healthy, viable native woody plant seeds with locally adapted genetics. In Southern Ontario, seed collection can be challenging due to inconsistent year to year seed production, mis-identification of species, seeds provided that are from unidentified locations or generally poor quality seed to start tree seedlings from for the new season.

ERCA has a very active seed collection program. For the past decade, ERCA has partnered with landowners to collect high quality seeds from the target species that are best suited to our Carolinian zone (Zone 38). These include Hickory, Oak, Maple and Sycamore trees, as well as Dogwood, Nannyberry and Elderberry shrubs. Partner nurseries then grow the seeds into small trees. After a period of 1 – 3 years, ERCA buys these seedling trees back to plant in our region, ensuring the most tolerant and best-adapted species are used for restoration projects, providing the best chance for the trees to flourish.

As part of ERCA’s annual seed collection program, the public was invited to assist ERCA’s Certified Seed Collectors at two workshops hosted at Camp Cedarwin in Kingsville. Workshop attendees learned how to identify targeted tree species that produce high quality seed, collect sustainably from these trees, test viability from the collection as well as process, clean and prepare seed for shipping.

For those interested in learning more about the program in Ontario, I recommend checking out Forest Gene Conservation Association’s website As the Ontario Seed Plant program is now defunct, this group is working with others like Forests Ontario to deliver the certification and forecasting workshops. Their manual, Seeds of Ontario Trees and Shrubs Field Manual for Crop Forecasting and Collection is an excellent resource and can be purchased from ERCA’s office to avoid shipping costs, or via FGCA’s website.

Seed Collection Photo Gallery

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