New native plant greenhouse at Palo Alto Baylands bolsters restoration efforts

The greenhouse provides optimal growing conditions for native plants to germinate and thrive.

On Wednesday August 24, 2011, Save The Bay dedicated our new Palo Alto Baylands Greenhouse. Save The Bay has been growing native plants at the Palo Alto Baylands since 2004. After 7 years, and well over 100,000 plants grown and outplanted throughout the Baylands Preserve, we are proud to open our new greenhouse that is already bursting at the seams with hardy, healthy seedlings.

As a restoration nursery, there are several functions that differentiate us from a garden center or an ornamental nursery. Foremost, almost all of our plants are grown from seed to retain the genetic diversity of each species. Second, we propagate plants in specialized containers that promote excellent root growth; the greater the number of roots, the greater the chance for success.

Speaking metaphorically, the greenhouse acts as a nursery and an elementary school — it allows us to provide optimal growing conditions for germinating seedlings, allowing plants to germinate earlier, stay warmer, and grow with greater vigor. The adjacent shadehouse acts like a high school or college, allowing the plants to “harden-off” and become fully prepared to get into the wild on their own.

This new greenhouse will provide numerous important benefits to improve our growing operations, as well as greater benefits for the community:

  • Larger, healthier plants with a longer growing window. We can start sowing earlier and maintain optimal growing conditions throughout most of the year.
  • Increased germination and survival rates for seeds sown at the nursery. The greenhouse provides optimal conditions for germination and seedling development.
  • Native plant propagation research. Unlike ornamental species and food crops grown in California, little or no research has been done on the growing of native species for the San Francisco Bay, especially within the ecotone habitat at the Bay’s edge.
  • Enhanced learning opportunities for volunteers and students that join us throughout the annual process of plant propagation.

This greenhouse would not have been possible without the contributions of the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, Craig O’Connell Architecture, Cupertino Electric, Vonnegut Thoreau Construction, Lyngso Garden Materials, and the many volunteers that have contributed their time and enthusiasm to completing this project. Thank you for your support and commitment to a healthier bay.

Come see the greenhouse for yourself! Join us every 2nd Wednesday of the month at the Baylands nursery, or participate in one of our public weekend restoration programs. Click here to volunteer.

Doug Serrill, Native Plant Nursery Manager