In the Midwestern United States, there is a strong management impetus toward reforestation to replace trees lost to due to tree mortality and to establish forests on previously cleared properties. Here, we describe a public outreach and volunteer effort that aimed to generate positive, community-engaged restoration outcomes and report on a practical experiment involving seed handling. We obtained tree seeds that were donated by members of the community to local land managers. We evaluated the size of the seeds collected and tested the influence of common stratification media (none, sand and vermiculite) and seed size on germination success of three tree genera involved in restoration efforts: Quercus
(oak, hickory and walnut). We found a species-specific effect of media on germination, such that Carya
showed little response to their stratification media, but Juglans
had higher germination rates when stratified with vermiculite. Further, all genera of seeds germinated faster when stratified with either media than without. Thus, we suggest stratifying these seeds with media to promote germination success. We also tested for seed size as a predictor of mortality during stratification, following the logic that a size-based selection criterion might save time and space during stratification. We found species-specific impacts of seed size on germination, but relationships were highly variable, and we suggest avoiding screening seeds based on their size. In addition to these scientific results, we describe the broader forest restoration project, which may be a useful model for engaging the community in restoration efforts.
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