Aquatic and wetland restoration and mitigation has become an increasingly important activity that improves ecosystem services and provides habitat for native flora and fauna (Brix, 1994). This has created a growing market for wetland plants required for these projects, but many wetland nurseries lack the facilities and infrastructure to produce large numbers of plants. This problem could be addressed by developing methods to grow these wetland species using greenhouse and nursery techniques similar to those used to culture other ornamental plants.
Habitat restoration and enhancement projects include a diversity of plant types and sizes to ensure that a heterogeneous architecture is created to attract an assemblage of native animals (Ma et al., 2010; Tews et al., 2004). Selecting ornamental plants for inclusion in these projects can satisfy multiple objectives, as the result can be aesthetically pleasing to stakeholders while providing habitat for native faunal denizens of aquatic and wetland environments. We focused our efforts on four ornamental native wetland species—broadleaf sagittaria, skyflower, cardinal flower, and string lily—for evaluation in these experiments. All four species are perennials native to the United States and are easily propagated via division (broadleaf sagittaria), twin scaling (string lily), cuttings (skyflower), or seed (cardinal flower). These perennial native wetland plants were selected for inclusion in these experiments because they are “double-duty” species; they provide desirable characteristics such as habitat creation and bank stabilization in restoration projects and are also frequently included in water gardens and shoreline plantings because of their ornamental nature. Our goal was to identify optimum cultivation conditions for these wetland plants by evaluating their growth and performance in a variety of substrates, fertilizer regimes, and irrigation methods. These experiments were designed to provide insight into whether wetland plant nurseries could use existing facilities to increase production of desirable native wetland plants, with the aim of meeting market demands without costly infrastructure upgrades.
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