© Jesse Wyatt, compliments of SpruceLab Inc. seed orchard

Seed Orchards

By planting gardens for harvesting and distributing seeds, we can grow the native plants we need to restore Canada’s natural landscapes

Strategically growing the native plant supply

Seed orchards are the solution to a problem many people aren’t aware we have — a serious shortage of native plants in Canada. Major ecosystem restoration work is underway across the country, all of it dependent on a sufficient supply of plants that are local to the restoration sites.

These plants form the foundation of healthy landscapes and provide food and shelter for a huge host of creatures; they are resilient and beautiful, and they sequester carbon from the atmosphere, too.

But native plants are in short supply. To achieve our goal of restoring one million hectares of habitat and ensure that Canada is a leader in nature-based climate solutions we need millions, even billions more than are currently available.

Seed orchards address this issue by first harvesting a limited number of wild seeds (so as not to disrupt wild populations and habitats), then growing them on a small, medium or large scale to produce more seeds. The whole process is carefully tracked and standardized.

© Ryan Godfrey University of Guelph, Sustainability Team staff and horticulture students are ready to plant their pollinator-focused seed orchard.

What WWF-Canada is doing

Right now, in southern Ontario, a seed strategy is beginning to come together, and WWF-Canada is right in the middle of it. We’ve helped native plant growers join forces and incorporate to become the Ontario Native Plant Growers Association. We have also funded 10 demonstration seed orchards to help understand the challenges and demonstrate success, and are partnering with commercial growers to scale up orchards in Ontario and Quebec. And, we are connecting native plant growers with garden center retailers to grow the market for native plants. This is all just the beginning!

In parallel to this work to grow the supply of native plants, we are also encouraging gardeners across the country to play a role in restoring habitat by prioritizing native plants in their own yard, balcony and rooftop gardens. Gardeners in Ontario and Quebec can check out our In the Zone program for guidance on how to plant your own native plant garden.

Air Wick is the lead supporter of WWF-Canada’s seed orchard program.