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History of the Saratoga Tree Nursery

spruce seedlings
Spruce seedlings.

The Saratoga Tree Nursery is the oldest state forest tree nursery in the country. When the Department established the Nursery program in 1902, the priority was reforestation. Reckless logging and forest fires had left bare slopes that were losing soil to erosion, contributing to serious flooding problems and contaminating water supplies. The present Nursery in Saratoga was established in 1911 as one of several State Nurseries across the State. In the decades before World War II, the primary mission of the Nursery was to grow conifer seedlings for water supply protection, soil protection and for timber plantations to ensure a steady supply of lumber.

seedlings planted on abandoned farmland
Tree seedlings planted on reforestation areas which
were previously sandy abandoned farms.

In the early 1930s the State began the reforestation system by acquiring abandoned farms. Most of this land had to be planted to protect the soil. Nursery production rose to meet the demand, and peaked in 1938 at 72.8 million seedlings produced for planting just in that year. These plantings were mainly accomplished by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

A State Forest plantation today
A State reforestation
area today.

With the establishment of the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1970, which combined Natural Resources and Environmental Quality in one department, the Nursery's mission became more diverse. Along with traditional forest seedling production and wildlife shrubs, the Nursery also began to produce trees and shrubs for remediation, wetland restoration, riparian protection, with a focus on growing native species from local seed sources.

Over the past hundred years, the Nursery has adapted to the changing needs of forestry and land management practices. The Nursery is an essential part of the Department that embodies the goals and mission in the form of living plants that support the multiple goals and missions of Department.

The Nursery currently grows over 50 species of native trees shrubs and vines, many of which are not even offered by commercial nurseries. Customers buy stock for a wide range of uses such as reforestation, site restoration, wetland and riparian buffer planting, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, Christmas tree production and many other uses.

red oak seedlings
Red oak seedlings are desired for reforestation,
streambank plantings and future timberland.

For sustainable landscapes, native plants are preferred whenever possible. However not all native plants are equally suitable. For example, a native white oak from a southern population may be less well adapted to New York climates. While commercial nurseries often sell stock grown at distant locations, almost all of the trees and shrubs at the Saratoga Tree Nursery are New York grown and bred. They are propagated from seeds and cuttings from New York plants best adapted to thrive in New York's climates.

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  • Saratoga Tree Nursery
    2369 Route 50 South
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4738
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