homepage logo

Can nursery be saved?

By Staff | May 22, 2015

-Farm News photos by Larry Kershner KANDY WEIGEL, administrative assistant at the State Forest Nursery in Ames, works in the cold room where millions of trees and shrubs are kept. The nursery offers specialty packets that host butterflies and other pollinators, promote fast forest growth, or wild nuts and fruits for wildlife and people.


AMES – In an effort to keep its nursery open, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Forestry Bureau will be considering price increases for its trees and shrubs and other policy changes at a public hearing at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at the nursery, 2404 S. Duff Ave. in Ames .

Another effort, which ended today and was intended to generate the needed funds to keep the nursery afloat, offered a special package deal to encourage more Iowans to plant trees and bushes this spring, with 100 free seedlings when they purchase specialty packets.

At issue is the bureau’s proposal earlier this year to close the state nursery because the facility cannot meet its expenses.

According to Paul Tauke, state forester, the nursery has operated at a loss consistently since fiscal year 2007, losing a total of $1.455 million in the eight-year period.

SCORES OF BAGS holding specialty packet seedlings await purchase and planting. The bags include graphics for recommended planting and care.

Tauke said the fiscal year 2014 loss of $321,000, plus another $185,000 in salaries and benefits for two workers who are paid from another fund, raises the loss to more than $500,000.

Tauke said this is the highest one-year loss the nursery has experienced in its 79 years of existence.

Without some changes in pricing and other removal of other restrictions, he expects a repeat of that loss in 2015 if the nursery is to remain open.

Supporters of the nursery blamed limitations placed on the nursery in how many trees it can sell and where trees can be sold.

Now, in a May 12 news release, the bureau said the Tuesday meeting will discuss options, including raising the price of trees to generate more revenue.

According to state law, the nursery must provide its own support.

To encourage Iowans to plant more types of trees, it was offering an extra 100 seedlings for each specialty packet purchased by Memorial Day weekend.

Kandy Weigel, administrative assistant at the nursery, said the nursery offers three specialty packets – hosting butterflies, fast-growing forests and wild edibles.

“With the continuing impacts of emerald ash borer, we want to make it easy for Iowans to mitigate the loss of trees and help diversify and expand Iowa’s tree canopy,” Tauke said.

Each custom packet consists of 200 bare-root seedlings which the customers choose, 50 each of four selected species.

The seedlings are between 8 and 24 inches, depending on the tree or shrub species.

Although the extra seedlings offer ends today, the packets can still be purchased.

To order a packet, Weigel said, patrons must contact the nursery at (800) 865-2477 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The types of species available in the packets are:

  • Butterfly packet: Patrons may host to more than 16 species of butterflies by choosing four of the following five species. They are ninebark, wild plum, burr oak, hackberry and Redosier dogwood.
  • Fast forest packet: These selections are known as the fastest growing trees at the nursery, typically 3 feet or more per year, once established. They are also known for superior storm water interception, tolerance of wet conditions and water uptake, and are suitable for planting along streams, rivers and waterways. They are hybrid poplar cuttings, silver maple, river birch, sycamore and cottonwood cuttings.
  • Wild edibles packet: Wildlife and people love the fruit and nuts from these native trees and shrubs. These include wild plum, aronia (or black chokeberry), black walnut, northern pecan, shagbark hickory and serviceberry.

Create-a-Packets increase wildlife habitat, pollinator potential or diversify backyard woodlands. Cost of a Create-a-Packet is $110, plus shipping and handling.

Seedling choices can be seen in the seedling catalog at www.iowadnr.com/nursery.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page