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Apr 17

[ARCHIVED] Hitting the Jackpot with Hall's Aster

The original item was published from April 17, 2019 12:52 PM to April 17, 2019 1:22 PM

staff holding up two bags of hall's aster

The hard work and patience of the Native Plant Nursery staff and volunteers has paid off, literally. A key plant for restoration sites, Hall's Aster plays an important role in providing late season nectar and pollen to bees. But propagating this precious plant doesn’t come easy, which is why it’s worth $1,000 a pound. This season, the Native Plant Nursery yielded 10 pounds, valued at $10,000!

bee on aster plantSymphyotrichum hallii, aka Hall’s Aster is a native, summer flowering plant that lives in wetland prairies and floodplains across the Pacific Northwest. When there are few, if any, other plants flowering and young Queen bumblebees are trying to put on enough fat to survive winter hibernation, aster can provide for them. 

Such a productive plant makes it an attractive candidate for our Native Plant Nursery to propagate, however, it’s not quite that easy. After a long bloom time, the seed is fluffy like a dandelion and blows away easily, making it difficult to collect. 

volunteer vacuuming asterArmed with shop vacuums, staff and volunteers went to work collecting seeds. Starting in late August, volunteers, interns and our staff lead vacuumed the two raised beds, totaling 128 square feet, nearly every day for two months. Each bed, taking as much as three hours. 

The Native Plant Nursery yielded 10 pounds of seeds, a record number for our nursery. Even more impressive is the limited space they were able to accomplish this feat in -128 square feet of raised beds. Our other seed source has yielded at most two pounds on 10,890 square feet.

When the harvest is almost complete, the plants are cut down, wrapped in remay cloth, then tied up in “burritos.” The Ecological Services team disperses them by hand through restoration sites. This year, three “burritos” were dispersed with this technique. 

The work that the Native Plant Nursery and nursery volunteers do is critical to establishing Hall’s Aster in our wetland restorations and to our pollinators. 

staff and volunteers behind aster plant