live stakes

Top Park Lists

Live stake harvesting underway at Greenland Nursery

by Melissa Romero on February 23, 2022

In a sign of spring to come, live stakes harvesting is underway at Greenland Nursery in West Fairmount Park.

Live stakes are tree stem cuttings–in this case, of the dogwood variety–that are installed along stream banks and eventually grow into trees, helping to fortify the stream bank, prevent further soil erosion, and provide exceptional habitat.

At Greenland Nursery in West Fairmount Park, each year Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Conservancy’s Natural Lands teams grow a variety of willows and dogwoods specifically for live staking. The process–from harvest to installation–takes place during the winter, when the trees are dormant.

A variety of native trees and shrubs can be used for live staking including dogwoods, willows, ninebark, and winterberry holly. These species are ideal for live staking because they grow readily along stream banks and have the ability to develop roots from the cut stem.

Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the live stake harvesting process. 

The Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Natural Lands teams harvested a total of 1,434 live stakes:

• Silky dogwood, Cornus amomum – 775
• Pussy willow, Salix discolor – 150
• Heart-leaved willow, Salix eriocephala 25
• Black willow, Salix nigra – 352
• Elderberry, Sambucus nigra – 75
• Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifius – 25
• Coralberry, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus – 32

In recent years, live stakes have been planted in parks across Philadelphia, including the grounds of the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center as part of the forest restoration project. This year, the live stakes harvested at Greenland Nursery will be distributed in various watershed parks, including Fairmount Park, Cobbs Creek, the Wissahickon, and FDR Park.

Once the live stakes grow roots, they will grow into trees and shrubs and promote a healthy habitat and wildlife. For example, willows are an excellent source of pollen and nectar for native bees and provide exceptional habitat for birds that nest in the trees.

Finally, planting live stakes is an incredibly economical and effective way to fortify stream banks and control and prevent erosion.

Photos by Rebecca Mah.