Channel Islands Restoration is currently leading the largest-ever restoration on San Nicolas Island. With the help of volunteers that have put in well over ten thousand hours over the years, we’ve grown and planted more than 30,000 plants to restore critical habitat throughout the island.
At present we have over 16,000 plants growing in our nursery with more on the way. In order to maintain the genetic integrity of San Nicolas Island, we grow every plant from seeds, and/or cuttings collected from the island on the island. Furthermore, we never share, transfer, or use plants or plant material from other islands or the mainland.
We often collect seeds from the wild parts of the island, but we have established two seed farms to supplement the seed supply. The seed farms consist of plants we commonly use but are rare on the island. These seed farms receive regular care and watering throughout the year. As a result of these seed farms, we have a ready supply of seeds for some of the island’s rare plants and are able to propagate a substantial amount of them to our restoration sites.
Collecting solely from San Nicolas Island limits us to grow only what we’re able to find on the island, and this year has been a boon for rarely seen annuals. In spring, we found Trifolium’s ‘clovers’ which we were able to collect for the first time. Additionally, we are growing a newly discovered grass for San Nicolas Island – annual muhly (Muhlenbergia microsperma) – in our seed farm to expand the diversity of species used in restoration projects on the island.
Other plants in production are the tried and true standards of island restoration. Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia species), the island night lizard’s favorite: California boxthorn (Lycium californicum), common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), island sagebrush (Artemisia nesoiotic), nodding needle grass (Stipa cernua), the California official state grass: purple needle grass (Stipa pulchra), endemic San Nicolas Island buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. timorum), and many more.
To support the increased demand for space to grow plants CIR staff and volunteers worked to renovate our nursery. We built a new and bigger shade house, improved the nursery flood tables, and converted tennis courts to a large propagation area to accommodate growing thousands of native plants. These plants will be planted along a new pipeline that is being installed on the island. These will help alleviate erosion and create a buffer between the road and the native habitat beyond. Plants closest to the road are selected to withstand traffic and mowing.
We will begin planting in February, relying on volunteers to help us accomplish this mammoth task.