Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Projects of the Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery

Nursery manager holding a seedling
The above osage-orange seedling is an
example of a native tree for which there
is little propagation information

The Nursery fulfills a vital niche in the conservation of New York's natural resources. Government agencies have always been involved in raising seedlings to meet reforestation and conservation needs, because success is too unpredictable for private enterprise, especially in the Northeastern States. Unlike annual crops, woody plants (trees, shrubs and vines) require a multi-year investment. Unpredictable and extreme weather conditions such as drought, heat waves, ice storms, early and late frosts, snow, flooding and frost heaves can destroy a crop overnight. In addition, experimenting with little-known or hard to germinate plants is too financially risky for private nurseries to undertake.

The Nursery currently produces over 1.5 million seedlings annually and maintains over 200 acres of seed production areas and orchards located across the state. Over 6 million seedlings representing over 50 species are currently growing at the Nursery.

Current and future opportunities through the Saratoga Nursery include:

Support for State and County Programs

Hearthstone Point Campground entrance

The Nursery supplies flowers and potted trees to DEC campgrounds. The trees are planted where hazardous trees between campsites are removed and "jump-started" replacements are needed for privacy. The Nursery provides a few thousand seedlings to be given out to the public at the State Fair every year and provides many trees and shrubs for various DEC exhibits and special projects around the state. Trees and shrubs are also provided to the Department of Transportation, the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, and county Soil and Water Conservation Districts for special projects.


Over 100 years ago, the Nursery grew willows for the thriving willow basket industry in Central New York. Today the Nursery grows a wide range of willow species and hybrids for riparian habitat, soil remediation, wetland restoration, rain gardens, and for bioengineering where willow cuttings are used for "soft" engineering such as stabilizing streambanks. In addition, the Nursery maintains over 6 acres of willow production for cuttings. This material has been used by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry for biomass and ethanol research.

Restoration of Rare and Endangered Species

seed processing machinery
Seed processing machinery

The Nursery has a complete seed processing plant, special chambers for germination testing, and a wide range of processes used to coax stubborn seeds to sprout. This capability has tremendous potential for restoration of endangered plants. In nature, seeds fail when they get eaten, get moldy, or fall in the wrong place. Very few actually have a chance to germinate and even fewer actually grow. In a controlled environment such as the Nursery, these fragile seeds are able grow into sturdy plants because they are protected during their vulnerable germination and seedling stage. For example, the Nursery was able to grow seedlings of the rare purple milkweed that were used to restore the dwindling population at Stewart State Forest.

Many rare species are in danger of disappearing in the wild, and it is vital to develop ways to propagate them before they are gone. The Nursery would like to increase work on propagating rare and unusual species. Some native species have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to grow from seed. For example, seed of some of the native viburnum species stubbornly refuses to break dormancy even after two or three years.

Forest Regeneration

The majority of State Forests in New York are now managed for hardwood production and rely on natural regeneration. However, in forests where there are high deer populations, natural regeneration may fail. Some forests have been reduced to little more than a canopy shading a dense understory of ferns. When New York's State Forests need seedlings, the Nursery is in a position to provide large numbers in a short time, using locally collected seed.

Research Partnerships

Recognition of the importance of plants and forests to the environment has led to a boom in plant research, but many universities lack the facilities to grow plants. The Nursery can provide a test site for plant-based research and development in partnership with state, federal, academic and non-profit groups.

Research on native plants can be challenging simply because of the difficulty in obtaining sufficient numbers of plants. With the ability to grow rare and unusual species in quantity, and also the large range of plants that are already in production, the Nursery can be a valuable resource for native plant research.

Preserving Species for the Future

seeds in cold storage
Seeds in cold storage

The Nursery is truly insurance for the future of our forests. Storing sufficient seed to preserve genetic diversity of a species is vital for our forests' future. Seed of a threatened species can be collected and stored for the future to preserve a healthy range of genetic diversity and then when the species threat has lessened, restoration can begin by growing quantities of seedlings from stored seeds.

Black Ash

The Nursery is currently storing seed of black ash for the Akwesasne Mohawks (PDF) to preserve this source of wood for their culturally-important basket-making tradition. After figuring out the difficult propagation needs of black ash, the Nursery is now able to grow this species in quantity for conservation and restoration planting to provide a long term resource for the tribe.

American Chestnut

The Nursery works with the American Chestnut Foundation to propagate chestnut seedlings which may show resistance to chestnut blight, a deadly disease imported from Asia. The Nursery's manager, Dave Lee, received the "President's Award" from the New York State Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation in 2004.

National Ash Seed Collection

The Nursery is involved in the national ash seed collection and storage effort to retain ash seed sources as a way to mitigate the loss of ash across many parts of its North American range due to the invasive, exotic emerald ash borer (EAB).

  • Contact for this Page
  • Saratoga Tree Nursery
    2369 Route 50 South
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4738
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions