Technical assistance for beaver conflicts and habitat: (541) 699-1606

Clarno Nursery

From Nursery to Restoration Site - The Role of Clarno Nursery

The Clarno Nursery is a collaborative project between the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Since 2021, Beaver Works Oregon has harvested much of our stick supply from this nursery in order to support our beaver habitat plantings throughout Central and Eastern Oregon. Read more to learn about how the Clarno Nursery supports our mission to restore beaver habitat throughout Central and Eastern Oregon.

The Key to Building BeaverHOODs

From a beaver’s perspective, willows and cottonwoods serve two purposes: 1) food to eat and 2) construction materials to build dams and dens. These plant materials are some of the main components they need to sustain life – and one of the first things they look for in potential habitats.

In our effort to promote beaver establishment and natural recovery across challenging parts of their historic range, we plant these quintessential hardwoods in denuded riparian areas. The willow and cottonwood plantings not only help restore riparian function but support other wildlife and stabilize the stream bank, reducing erosion.

Did you know that entire willow and cottonwood trees can be grown from just one small stick?

Close-up of a nursery raised willow “cutting” sprouting leaves

beaver hood home plans

Willow and Cottonwood Stick Plantings

Every year, Beaver Works cuts and collects “cuttings” of willow and cottonwood for our beaver habitat planting projects around Central and Eastern Oregon. Cuttings are dormant sections of hardwood trees and shrubs with no leaves or roots. Limbs are clipped and trimmed, leaving the roots of the tree intact and ready to keep growing without the need to replant year after year. More like pruning – the way beavers do!

Our stick harvesting and planting method is not so different from what beaver’s naturally do. By pruning or “coppicing,” and building with plant cuttings, beavers help propagate more trees, as loose willow and cottonwood sticks float downstream and often grow into full-grown clones of the upstream trees.

Native willow and cottonwood stands located near a rehabilitation site are in some ways an ideal source of plant material for cutting and planting at a restoration site since they are adapted to local conditions. But oftentimes the nearby native plants are already stressed and cannot sustain widespread harvest. Wild harvest is also a long, labor intensive process that involves visiting multiple sites, hiking through thick brush, plant identification and viability assessment, etc. So since 2021, Beaver Works Oregon has harvested much of our willow and cottonwood stick supply from Clarno Nursery, near Fossil, Oregon.

The Clarno Nursery

The Clarno Nursery, officially named the Clarno Hardwood Propagation Facility, is a collaborative project between the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Plants of known wild origin are grown from cuttings there in garden beds under ideal conditions. As many as 50,000 willows, cottonwoods and other native trees are harvested annually from this facility for a diverse range of restoration projects around the northwest.
After harvesting branches of new growth, we bundle them together in vinyl bags and transport them to a fridge for several months – until the ground is ready for planting in the spring. Pre-soaking dormant hardwood cuttings in cool conditions has been shown to improve survival, increase vigor and stimulate greater production of roots and shoots. When conditions are right, cuttings root quickly after planting. Willow and cottonwood root better than other species because of the high concentration of pre-formed dormant root primordia (the plant version of stem cells) located throughout the branches. For these reasons, cuttings are relatively low-cost and easy to plant.

Get Involved

Each year we ask volunteers to be involved with every step of beaver habitat restoration – from cutting at the nursery to planting at the streamside. Want to get involved and help support natural beaver recovery (and the many benefits!) throughout our high desert?

Willow cuttings in a Clarno Nursery bed in May (top) and the same cuttings sprouting branches and leaves in August (bottom)

Clarno-Nursery plants
Restoration of native riparian vegetation and countering of invasive species can have positive consequences for river and floodplain dynamics, trophic interactions, water quality, and riparian systems’ ability to buffer some of the impacts of climate change. In acknowledgment of these many benefits, restoration and enhancement efforts have increased in scope and scale in recent years, though more work is needed to document the efficacy of different techniques and methods. By documenting our efforts and monitoring the outcome with metrics comparable across other riparian restoration projects, we hope to serve as a guide to help set up future projects for optimal success.