What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: Native Plant Research

Samuel Jean, Conservation and Education Assistant

The K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre is partnering with Helping Nature Heal Inc. to study the effect of a newly-developed seaweed-based product on the growth and development of native plants. This research project has been funded by IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program) and the Nova Scotia Business Inc. Productivity and Innovation Voucher Program. The research aims to determine whether the product enhances root establishment and overall plant vigor, to confer greater resistance to environmental stress conditions, particularly among native plants used in shoreline and coastal restoration projects.

Initial research with willows (Salix sp.) started this summer, involving trials within the phytotron growth facilities and tissue culture lab at the K.C. Irving Centre. The seaweed product is subsequently being tested on three native shrub species this fall. A group of treated red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica), and grey alder (Alnus incana) specimens and a control group of untreated specimens of the same species have been established at a coastal study site located in Grand-Pré. The product is also being tested with a few herbaceous native plants species that were grown from seed donated by the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens. Ditch-stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides) and lance-leaf figwort (Scrophularia lanceolata) groups will be overwintered at the K.C. Irving Environmental Centre as part of the project. The root status and overall health of the plants involved in these trials will be assessed during the next growing season.

“This research aligns well with the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens,” notes propagation specialist Dr. Robin Browne, “where we are seeking to develop our program for the conservation of native flora within the Acadian Forest Region. We are very excited and optimistic about this collaboration with Helping Nature Heal, in support of their restoration efforts using native species.”

Helping Nature Heal is an award-winning company based in Bridgewater, NS. With 20 years of experience in ecosystem restoration, the organization encourages environmental awareness, stewardship, self-sufficiency, and resilience in individuals and the community.

We are looking forward to hearing about the results of this project!

Photo: Dr. Robin Browne, a propagation specialist at the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre, preparing ditch-stonecrop (Penthorum sedoides) specimens for the trial.