Bucktown Tree Nursery
Our Bucktown Swamp Tree Nursery was recently established in the fall of 2020 by Pontchartrain Conservancy's previously serving AmeriCorps member Cameron Fields. It is currently home to over 4,000 bald cypress and green ash seedlings that will eventually be planted throughout our beautiful Pontchartrain Basin. This nursery was created to provide PC with a consistent source of native trees for our many ongoing swamp restoration projects. Through planting these trees we aim to bring native biodiversity back to the wetlands, create a barrier against violent storm surges, stabilize sediment, and prevent land loss along our coastline. We also hope to use this space to engage the community through hosting nursery tours and a variety of educational events. Located just across the highway from Bucktown Marina, the Brown Foundation has graciously donated their land and water to nourish our baby trees.
Pallet layout and shed construction during nursery establishment
Tree planting has been a vital part of Pontchartrain Conservancy's swamp restoration efforts since 2010. Forested swamp ecosystems throughout southeast Louisiana have historically suffered a number of severe anthropogenic and natural damages. Leveeing of the Mississippi River, increased soil salinity, oil and gas development, navigation canals, logging, invasive nutria introduction, hurricane damage, and flooding have all contributed to the loss of this crucial habitat over the last two centuries. Swamp forests provide our coastal communities with a number of important ecological services. These forests help absorb violent storm surges, stabilize land along our vanishing coastline, and provide habitat for many other living creatures. Reforestation projects are currently underway in Caernarvon area, Maurepas Swamp, LaBranche Wetlands, Central Wetlands, and marshes near Madisonville on the Northshore. PC has collaborated with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) and Restore the Earth Foundation (REF) to plant over 80,000 native trees throughout the Pontchartrain Basin. We also continuously rely on the support of many dedicated community volunteers to help get these trees in the ground and restore our beautiful swamps. Thanks to the Bucktown Nursery, we are now able to produce a consistent source of seedlings internally rather than relying on outside sources for our restoration projects.
Tree planting in various wetland areas with our dedicated community volunteers
In many areas these trees cannot propagate and survive without human intervention. Increased soil salinity, altered hydrological conditions, and slow germination rates have all inhibited natural reforestation in the Pontchartrain Basin. Bald cypress in particular have struggled to regenerate due to herbivory by the invasive nutria rodent, which digs up and eats the roots of young cypress seedlings. PC combats these environmental barriers by carefully monitoring and selecting planting locations that are conducive to reforestation, and by planting seedlings with a plastic guard that prevents nutria from killing our trees. Our hope is that as environmental conditions improve over time, these trees will be able to propagate themselves with limited human intervention.
A percentage of all trees planted are routinely monitored for survivability and growth rates. This allows us to estimate the overall success of our plantings over time, location, and species. For each tree monitored, survival is recorded and diameter at breast height (DBH) and height are measured. This information is important for determining the success rate of our restoration efforts and informs future projects. To date, we are happy to report an overall survival rate of 77% in Caernarvon area and 87% in Maurepas Swamp! Growth rates seem to vary across location due to variations in nutrient availability and other environmental conditions.
Meet the Trees
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
Easily recognizable for its characteristic "cypress knees" rising out of the swamp waters, the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is the official state tree of Louisiana! This deciduous conifer is native to the southeast United States and can grow up to 120 feet tall. Its needles are soft and feathery and turn a rusty red-orange color in autumn. This is a particularly good tree for coastal restoration due to its high tolerance of adverse environmental conditions. These hardy trees can thrive in soil conditions that are wet, dry, sandy, loamy, clay-like, acidic, alkaline, or most importantly - swampy! Their unique cypress knees also help provide structural support and stability when facing high hurricane winds. Many species eat the cones and seeds of cypress trees or live in their branches making this species a valuable component to our swamp ecosystems.
The green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) is known as a keystone species, meaning that it plays a critical role in maintaining the health and structure of its ecological community. This deciduous tree is native to the central and eastern United States and can grow up to 82 feet tall. Its delicate leaves turn a beautiful golden yellow each autumn. The green ash is known for its large and abundant seed pods that develop in the springtime. These seedpods, as well as green ash leaves, provide a valuable source of food to a wide variety of wildlife including little tadpoles living in puddles underneath the canopy. This is a popular species for restoration efforts due to its ease of propagation, tolerance of flooding and other adverse weather conditions, and for its crucial role in maintaining ecological harmony.
Interested in visiting our nursery? We are always seeking volunteers to help maintain our trees! Opportunities range from simple weeding and watering to helping out with our larger planting events. Click the link below to register as a volunteer and sign up for a shift!
Thank you for your interest! Feel free to contact Noah, our nursery manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.