WERA1013: Intermountain Regional Evaluation and Introduction of Native Plants

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Draft

WERA1013: Intermountain Regional Evaluation and Introduction of Native Plants

Duration: 10/01/2018 to 09/30/2023

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

Water is one of the most limiting resources for crop production and landscape management. The issue is magnified in western U.S. states, where climate-change-induced increases in heat and drought have resulted in declining water supplies and reduced agricultural yields (1). Home and commercial landscape irrigation accounts for the greatest proportion of non-agricultural water use in U.S. western states (2). Use of regionally adapted native plants in home and commercial ornamental landscapes has the potential to lower water use and decrease demand for water (3). Further, climate change has influenced interactions among plants and pollinators, and many localities are facing pollinator species loss due to habitat fragmentation and loss (4). Incorporating native plants into urban and suburban landscapes is one way to provide habitat and food sources for native pollinators (5). The regional market for native plants is expanding rapidly, but cost of production currently limits many native plant growers, who rely on limited local demand for their plant materials. Landscapers and landowners in states such as Nevada (6), with high plant production costs due to climate constraints, rely on neighboring states as sources of commercially available native plants for landscaping. Greater cooperation among western states expands the markets for producers in these areas, decreasing cost of production and increasing the use of native plants in home and commercial landscapes.

Other factors that limit the widespread use of native plants by landscape professionals in the West are lack of plant availability caused by production and marketing challenges, and limitations in landscape professionals' knowledge about landscape use and adaptation constraints of native plants (7). According to industry stakeholders, landscape professionals are increasingly willing to include native plants in their landscape designs, and growers desire to produce native plants to meet the demand. However, demand for specific native plant materials often does not match supply because some desirable native plant species require a longer production time than conventional landscape plants, and landscape professionals are not knowledgeable about species availability and plant size limitations. Regional efforts to match supply with demand for native plants will increase demand for native species that can be produced cost-effectively, and will allow growers the lead time to produce plants for which there is high demand. Collaborative regional educational programs targeted to landscape professionals, growers and consumers will stimulate demand for, and knowledge about, native plant species deemed appropriate for landscape use.

We set the stage for much of this to happen in the first five years of this project. We established a website where we could post information about native species for growers and consumers (http://www.uwyo.edu/wera1013/). The website includes a list of university and grower members, printable species fact sheets, plant photos and a regularly updated grower list by state. During the second five years of this project, we continued to build and strengthen relationships among participating Western states.

In Idaho, a new and unique native plant wholesale and retail production nursery, Native Roots, LLC, was established based on a market for the native plants produced by research in Idaho on native plant domestication and commercialization. Native Roots, LLC has released for public consumption a total of 52 native plant products since its inception. During the past year, Native Roots, LLC has initiated contact with Plant Select® of Colorado to cooperatively market plants

released by the University of Idaho. The Idaho group is represented by Stephen Love and the Colorado group by Jim Klett, both members of the WERA-1013 project.

To stimulate demand for native plants and their proper maintenance by Nevada landscape professionals, the Nevada Extension Commercial Horticulture Program, led by WERA-1013 member Heidi Kratsch, has partnered with local landscape architects to present a panel discussion at the Nevada Landscape Association annual conference on “Maintaining Unconventional Landscapes: Can Landscape Architects and Contractors Work Together?” The collaboration was spurred by the efforts of local landscape architects hired to design native plant landscapes in our public spaces, and the need to involve landscapers in the process to assure proper maintenance of those spaces and encourage native plant flowering and reseeding efforts. This unprecedented collaboration will lead to revisions to the Nevada Landscape Association landscaping guidelines and result in visible public spaces that feature native plants.

Our plan for the next five years is to further expand the extent of interstate cooperation and to enhance stakeholder-driven efforts at public education about the benefits of native plants in water-conserving, pollinator-friendly landscapes.


  1. Enhance interstate cooperation in marketing new native plant materials and cultivars, especially plants that facilitate water conservation and pollinator protection.
  2. Coordinate regional efforts to provide education to both the public and industry professionals on native plant propagation/production, water conservation benefits and use in ornamental landscapes, and maintenance of native-plant-dominated ornamental landscapes for efficiency of water use.

Procedures and Activities

WERA 1013 meets annually in October to chart the course of collaborative educational and research activities for the year. These meetings include networking opportunities for educators, researchers and growers, website updates, distribution and coordination of plant materials, and research and education reports. WERA 1013 meets informally at the annual American Society for Horticultural Sciences conference.

WERA 1013 strives to produce educational and promotional products for landscapers, homeowners, and growers as well as define propagation and production methods for new plant materials. WERA 1013 seeks to support industry-based organizations that advance the production to meet the demand for native plant materials and encourage grower organizations to continue to promote the use of native plants.

Research related to native plants is carried on by individual group members in collaboration with other group members, who may provide seed or cuttings from populations in their state or evaluate the performance of new plants by garden trials and/or public satisfaction surveys. Examples of the type of research conducted includes genetic selection for improved traits and investigation of the genetic variability and relationships within species of particular importance or popularity (e.g., Penstemon). Group members with a primary role in education or extension focus on contributing to information included on the website (http://www.uwyo.edu/wera1013/), display of newly developed plants in public garden spaces, and education about the value of native plants to students, master gardeners, and the community.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Research on the adaptability and genetic stability of native plant species and selections will inform educators and extension professionals in translating these results for community benefit.
  • Increased knowledge about the reliability and regional adaptability of native plant materials targeted for use in water-conserving and pollinator-friendly landscapes.
  • Opening new regional markets for native plants, facilitating production of native plant materials on a larger scale and resulting in greater profitability for propagators and growers.
  • Regional education and outreach programs leading to greater willingness of homeowners to adopt native plant concepts and landscape professionals to promote and properly maintain native plant designs.
  • Increased use of water-conserving native plants by landscape professionals and by the consuming public as measured by increased sales of native plant materials by growers and retailers.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Inputs will include demonstration gardens, regional professional seminars, regional web-based educational resources, and published materials. Information on native plant use, benefits related to water conservation and pollinator protection, and maintenance of native plant landscapes to promote water sustainability will be integrated into appropriate university courses and master gardener programs, and will be made available to the horticulture industries and the public. Information will be disseminated by individual group members by way of classroom lectures, Extension publications, and oral presentations at industry meetings. Efforts will be made to provide language-appropriate educational opportunities in regions where such issues exist. Examples of our outputs include: 1) Report of the Intermountain Native Plants Cooperative (annual proceedings reports posted on our website); 2) Native Plants in the Landscape fact sheets (posted on our website); 3) Development of a native plant speakers bureau comprised of WERA 1013 members who are asked to speak at state and regional industry meetings. Assessment of outcomes and impacts will occur as a result of, but are not limited to, tracking of website analytics, industry focus group meetings, and pre- and post-seminar surveys. The result of regional educational collaboration involving universities and industry stakeholders will be a concerted effort to stimulate demand for and knowledge about water-conserving native plants, improve the quality of available plant materials, and facilitate introduction of new plant materials to improve profitability of native plant production.


Standard description. ("The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities includes the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a CSREES Representative.")

Literature Cited

(1) National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Global Climate Change: Vital signs of the planet. https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/; Accessed 15 November 2017.

(2) Kjelgren, R., Rupp, L, and D. Kilgren. 2000. Water conservation in urban landscapes. HortScience 35: 1037-1040.

(3) McPherson, E.G. 1990. Modeling residential landscape water and energy use to evaluate water conservation policies. Landscape Journal 9: 122-134.

(4) Giannini, T.C., Costa, W.F., Cordeiro G.D., Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L., Saraiva, A.M., Biesmeijer, J., and L.A. Garibaldi. 2017. Projected climate change threatens pollinators and crop production in Brazil. PLoS One 12(8): e0182274.

(5) USDA Forest Service. Gardening for Pollinators. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/gardening.shtml; Accessed 21 November 2017.

(6) Curtis, K.R. and C.W. Cowee. 2007. Markets for Nevada Native Plants & Seeds. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet -07-03.

(7) Hooper, V.H., Endter-Wada, J., and C.W. Johnson. 2008. Theory and Practice Related to Native Plants: A Case Study of Utah Landscape Professionals. Landscape Journal 27:127-141.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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