Pacific Coast Native Grass Seed Development (2008)

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Article submitted by: Manivalde (Many) Vaartnou

The Pacific Coast native grass development program that I initiated, and pursued from 1996-2006, ended in March, 2006, with a successful conclusion. I'm no longer directly involved, but am happy to report 2007 developments.

In 2003, 2004 and 2005 seed of the most successful species was transferred to Pickseed Canada Inc., so that they could begin field-scale, commercial seed production if they chose to do so. Commercial seed production began in August, 2007. Seedling emergence was variable in the fall of 2007 for six of these species, which were seeded to small field-scale production. Some were very successful, while others required interseeding to fill out the fields. This 2007 emergence should result in seed production this summer, so there will be native BC coast grass seed on the market by the winter of 2008/09, and BC coast reclamation can take a major step forward to true "ecological restoration" in the near future. As yet, the precise species quantities of seed which might be available are unknown because this depends upon success in the field this year. The species I selected from my former coast program, on the basis of possible utility, are listed below. Those that were seeded to field-scale in 2007, through the efforts of Pickseed Canada Inc.'s BC Manager, have an asterisk. The others are serious possibilities in the future, depending upon commercial response to the first six.

  • *Agrostis exarata #10
  • Agrostis scabra @61
  • Bromus carinatus #127
  • *Bromus sitchensis #48
  • Calamagrostis stricta #84
  • Deschampsia cespitosa #30
  • *Deschampsia elongata #13
  • *Elymus glaucus #14
  • *Festuca rubra ssp arenicola #91
  • Festuca rubra ssp pruinosa #56
  • *Poa compressa #83

For more details, feel free to contact me at 604-271-2505, and if interested in seed purchase in the fall/wintere, the contact is: DON BIGGIN; BC Sales Manager, Pickseed Canada Inc. His contact info is as follows: Ph: 604-309-7939 or 1-877-505-7964; e-mail: I hope to accompany Don on a visit to the fields in June.


There was no new commercial seed production in 2007. The selections discussed below have been extensively tested over the last thirty years in northern Canada. I used the results from these trials to write the specifications found in the Yukon Revegetation/Reclamation Manual. The citations for the two volumes of the manual are:

Kennedy, C.E. editor. 1993. Guidelines for Reclamation/Revegetation in the Yukon. Department of Renewable Resources, Government of Yukon. 180pp.

Hill, T., C.E. Kennedy and D. Murray, editors. 1996. Guidelines for Reclamation/Revegetation in the Yukon: Volume Two. Department of Renewable Resources, Government of Yukon. pp 181-266.


A) Seed Available Today

One selection, Agropyron violaceum MV6 (violet wheatgrass), is available in reasonable quantity at a reasonable price from one/two seed merchants. The original collection was from Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory. This selection prefers open and semi-shaded sandy loam and thrives at locations from 56-63 degrees North Latitude. It has reasonable tolerance of mildly alkaline soils, and is the most critical component for a successful reclamation mixture in northern Canada. It is not a subalpine/alpine species, but may be of considerable use in the interior of BC.

If interested in obtaining reasonably priced seed contact:

Pickseed Canada Inc. - CARLENE VAN BRABANT: 1-800-265-3925 or 780-464-0350 (definitely available )

Brett-Young Seeds - GLORIA WEIR: 1-800-222-6443 or 780-985-7305 (may be available)

A second selection, Poa glauca MV4 (glaucous bluegrass), might be available, although perhaps in lesser quantities. The original collection was from Miles Canyon (Whitehorse YT). This selection is suitable from 56 degrees NL to the Arctic Ocean, but prefers semi-open sites. It is useful in semi-xeric sites, has a mild tolerance to alkaline sites, and, while not considered a true alpine species, has demonstrated long-term survival in sub-alpine locations. This selection is a much sturdier plant than the cultivar developed elsewhere.

If interested, contact as above.

B) Other Activity

In the last two years I have become aware of several possibilities for multiplication of my other northern species. Thus, in 2006, each of the following selections were seeded to multiplication plots in northern Canada at different locations. This is an on-going program, which will be continued in 2008 to ascertain interest. I'm using the botanical names as they were at the time I collected them. Species involved are:

  • Agropyron macrourum MV8
  • Agropyron subsecumdum MV8
  • Agropyron trachycaulum (pauciflorum) MV9
  • Agropyron violaceum MV6
  • Agrostis scabra MV14
  • Deschampsia caespitosa MV12
  • Festuca saximontana MV2
  • Phleum commutatum MV13
  • Poa alpina MV3
  • Poa glauca MV4
  • Poa palustris MV5
  • Trisetum spicatum MV11


A collection of southern interior grasses was undertaken in 2004. This was the successor to an unsuccessful program attempted in the previous years with the assistance of Kelowna Parks, to whom I'm forever thankful. This did not work because of "fire season" in the Okanagan. The seeds from the 2004 collection were seeded to individual 50m rows in August, 2004 in Oliver, and maintenance was carried out throughout 2006. The success rate varied tremendously as described below. Through the financial assistance of Terra-Link Horticulture Inc. I was able to maintain this plot in 2007, and will do so in 2008. Taxonomy follows the BC MOF manuals of the early 1990's (some botanical names have changed), but am using the BC MOF names from the early 1990's, for this latter program because I think most of you are more familiar with these than the 70's names or the more recent taxonomy in the 8 Volume B.C. Flora published this decade.

Elymus spicatus - very weak initial emergence; recollected from another location and reseeded in 2006; 2006 seeding also appeared unsuccessful initially, but was very successful in 2007 and promising for 2008

Festuca idahoensis var idahoensis - reasonable emergence in 2005; always promising & very successful in 2007 (a definite winner)

Koeleria macrantha - poor initial emergence; reseeded with remainder of 2004 seed in 2005 - 2006 results excellent, 2007 even better - while not definite, looks like a winner

Poa secunda (I question the sp. i.d.; looks more like Poa compressa) - minimal emergence in 2005; excellent through delayed germination in 2006, outstanding in 2007 - great, but I'm 99% sure it's actually P. compressa

Stipa sp. - no emergence in 2005; recollected from same location and reseeded in 2005; very tiny plants in 2006, bit stronger in 2007; but nothing truly worthwhile as yet

Bromus spp. (2 species) - both very successful, B. carinatus, thought to be an annual in 2005, definitely not, as shown in 2006/07, but the other brome will be deleted in early 2008 if I can't hand weed it 100% accurately in May. B. carinatus is outstanding, even if it is a probably a short-lived perennial (3-4 years)

Calamagrostis rubescens - still no emergence; abandoned

Leymus cinereus - still extremely successful re plant growth & survival, but very weak seed production in 2007 - but does it have a use?

Sporobolus cryptandrus - initially no emergence; recollected from another location and reseeded in 2005, another poor result as of August, 2006; still a no-show in 2007

Helictotrichon hookeri - very successful from start and again in 2007 - but does it have a use?

Also collected some Aristida longiseta in 2006, seeded 25% of row in early 2007; nil emergence by August, 2007

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