Hitchhiker Planting: Mixed-species Container Stock Planting as a Novel Tool to Increase Plant Diversity on Industrially Disturbed Sites

Amanda Schoonmaker
A. Mathison
Marshall Mackenzie
Resource Date:

Rapid establishment of closed canopy cover is a key goal in land reclamation. While re-establishment of understory vegetation is likely to positively contribute to this goal, native herbaceous species are not typically planted on reclaimed sites though it is an alternative to reliance on natural regeneration. The objective of the present study was to test the principle of hitchhiker production of a tree species with native herbaceous species on recently reclaimed industrial sites with the aim of (1) understanding growth tradeoffs when mixing these species in the same container and (2) if hitchhiking had negative growth and survival outcomes for white spruce (Picea glauca) seedlings compared with singly grown white spruce seedlings. White spruce seeds were sown in nursery containers of contrasting cavity sizes, followed by sowing a forb species (Eurybia conspicua or Chamerion angustifolium) at different time intervals or grown singly. Larger cavities and earlier sow dates were associated with higher persistence and growth of the forbs, while later sow dates were associated with larger white spruce seedlings. We observed no evidence to suggest that hitchhiked seedlings were at a competitive disadvantage in terms of growth or survival compared with singly grown seedlings that were initially similar in size.