Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

CSKT Forestry Department greenhouses help spread diversity throughout the region

By Alyssa Kelly
Char-Koosta News

The “Native Plant Sale” sign draws in customers to Ronan Tribal Forestry greenhouse. (Alyssa Kelly photo)The “Native Plant Sale” sign draws in customers to Ronan Tribal Forestry greenhouse. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

RONAN — A painted ply-board sign saying: “Native Plant Sale” drew customers to the Tribal Forestry Department’s greenhouse. Apricot trees, landscaping plants, and even huckleberry bushes are ready for customers to purchase and transplant.

All plants are grown locally and seasonal greenhouse worker Monty Morengo said the sale brought in $3,000 its debut weekend. “We had the sale two years ago and we took last year off. Then we had people calling asking if we were going to have it again. So you can say we’re back by popular demand,” he said.

The sale is an extension of the Tribal Forestry Department’s work in ecosystem management. Since taking over management of forestry services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1995, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have developed and updated its Forest Management Plan every ten years. Its focus being to serve the physical, biological, cultural, and social needs for tribally owned land on the Flathead Reservation.

The Tribal Forestry Department operates two greenhouses with a total of 42 beds, which can house 2,000 plants per bed. This week’s crop is sage. (Alyssa Kelly photo)The Tribal Forestry Department operates two greenhouses with a total of 42 beds, which can house 2,000 plants per bed. This week’s crop is sage. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

The Department was established in 1976 during a booming timber industry. Its primary services involved planting trees such as Douglas fir and lodge pole pine. Today, Morengo said only one-third of the department’s work involves tree planting.

 “We still do tree planting but now most of our work is growing grass plants, shrubs, and fruit trees for people,” Morengo said. “In some cases people will send a seed they want us to grow or send a cone and we’ll extract the seed. We grow the plants and we ship it to them.”

Operating two greenhouses with a total of 42-beds, which can house 2,000 plants per bed, the Tribal Forestry Department fills orders by growing seeds and shipping plants or trees throughout the Northwest. Morengo said its services have been requested to provide greenery for industrial projects, landscaping, and even restoration.

After the plants have grown to a certain stage and are stabilized they are moved to an outdoor greenhouse. (Alyssa Kelly photo)After the plants have grown to a certain stage and are stabilized they are moved to an outdoor greenhouse. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

“We’ve shipped plants all over. We’ve even worked with other tribes in Montana on some restoration projects. The Blackfeet wanted to bring back certain trees that used to grow in their area and they contracted with us for those projects,” he said.

Contract botanist Matthew Ogden has been working on plant restoration projects throughout the Northwest for 17 years. Housing over 500 species and adding 100 more to its collection each year, Ogden said variety sets CSKT’s greenhouse apart.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the Northwest that has the diversity that we have,” he said. “A lot of places might carry trees and shrubs or only focus on wetland species but we carry a huge variety of forbs and wildflowers. There are not too many other nurseries that grow them. We’re stirring the market a little.”

Ogden said CSKT’s greenhouse is making waves growing a variety of pollinating plants, which have taken the center focus in gardening recently as bee populations are at risk. “We have a little more freedom so we can try different things like pollinator species,” he said. “When it comes to species that provide pollinators you want to have plants that are flowering at different times. If you only focus on one species then you’re not covering the full scope of diversity or allowing pollinating over greater span of time.”

Huckleberry: One of the sale’s more difficult plants to grow is the huckleberry bush. The greenhouse grows several species of huckleberry including high growing and low growing bushes. (Alyssa Kelly photo)Huckleberry: One of the sale’s more difficult plants to grow is the huckleberry bush. The greenhouse grows several species of huckleberry including high growing and low growing bushes. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

One of the more difficult-to-grow plants featured at the sale are huckleberry bushes. Ogden said the nursery has a collection of seeds from various species of huckleberry. “There are high growing bushes and low growing bushes and there really is a variety that grows in this area,” he said. “I don’t know what success people will have at transplant because it is a difficult species to grow with a high mortality rate but it can be done.”

Aside from growing plants, the Tribal Forestry Department has collected and inventoried $100,000 worth of seeds. “Seeds really are the future,” Morengo said. “I think it’s something we’re all going to have to take a serious look at investing in. They each have a life. Some of the pine seeds smell strong, some seeds are so small they need a salt and pepper shaker to plant them.”

Seed Buckets: Season worker Monty Morengo shows the department’s $100,000 seed collection. (Alyssa Kelly photo)Seed Buckets: Season worker Monty Morengo shows the department’s $100,000 seed collection. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

A large portion of Ogden’s contract work with the Department is collecting seeds. “There’s a fair amount of effort that goes into the reconnaissance of relocating the plants,” he said. “Cleaning and properly storing the seeds is a lot of work. In the end whenever we have a project or an interest in a particular species and we can match them up to their site it’s pretty valuable. There is a lot more recent interest because people are recognizing that in forest development it takes variety to address an entire ecosystem.”

The “Native Plant Sale” ended on June 8. It included over 7,000 plants that can be grown in Western Montana, not all of which are indigenous to the area. “All of the plants we have for sale can be grown in this region but that doesn’t mean its Indigenous to the area. We have apricot trees that have been grown from seeds out of Siberia, it’s just a variety.”

A significant part of the greenhouse’ work involves collecting and storing seeds from several plant species. (Alyssa Kelly photo)A significant part of the greenhouse’ work involves collecting and storing seeds from several plant species. (Alyssa Kelly photo)
Ogden shared some advice on introducing plants to a new environment. “It’s important to research or get an understanding of where the habitat that plants grow in naturally as well as its lifecycle,” he said. “They will be going into a different soil and hydrology but plants have a way of sorting themselves out for the most part and taking root. It’s a learning process so do your research and try.”
Advertise with us!
Share
submit to reddit
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious