The Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC), a facility of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, is a 13–acre greenhouse, nursery, and seed bank complex located on Staten Island, NY.

Founder Seed Program

Many projects, both large and small, benefit when they can turn to seeding operations as a low–cost and effective alternative to live planting. There are currently no producers of New York City–local ecotypic bulk seed to meet these needs.

Picture of seed from the founder seed program

By initiating a program to provide bulk seed, we have three goals:

  • To produce founder seed from locally–derived genetic stock. Founder seed production is the initial step in the production of bulk seed for large–scale projects. Our founder seed will be made available for further increases to meet these needs.
  • To provide seed for small-scale projects directly from our founder seed harvests and to develop appropriate seed mixes from these stocks for common restoration scenarios. We also offer our guidance in choosing an appropriate mix and in seeding and establishment operations.
  • To insure that seed mixes derived from local populations are produced in a manner that insures maximum genetic diversity and that meets accepted standards for bulk seed production.

Whether meeting the need of small or large projects, the initial steps in producing bulk seed are the same:

Founder Plots are Initiated with Greenhouse Propagules
Founder Plots Are Initiated with Greenhouse Propagules

  1. Appropriately sample and collect wild seed.
  2. Propagate this seed in our greenhouses and plant out in our founder plots—pure strands of a single species, representative of the genetic variation found in local populations.
  3. Harvest founder seed over several growing seasons, process and bank in our seed storage facility.

The founder seed produced may be sufficient for small-scale restoration projects. For large-scale projects, founder seed will be used to establish larger production fields to be grown under contract with large seed companies. By providing these companies with locally derived founder seed, we can insure the genetic integrity of the end products.

Several measures are taken to ensure that founder seed produced at the GNPC captures the full range of genetic diversity found in the metro area. Some of these measures include:

Founder Seed Plots under Cultivation at the GNPC
Founder Seed Plots under Cultivation at the GNPC

  • Only collecting seed for propagation from wild, native populations.
  • Collecting seed from a minimum of 50 individuals from any given plant population.
  • Recognizing ecotypic differences.
  • Respecting isolation distance requirements for source-identified seed certification.
  • Harvesting early, mid, and late maturing seed.

Standards for pure live seed and contamination of seed mixes by weed seed are set by the Association of Official Seed Analysts ( The GNPC will certify all of its seed products prior to making them available for restoration and management projects.

Currently, founder plots of 15 native species are in production for the development of three native meadow seed mixes. Click here for a list of species under development.

Women working at Decker Farm

Decker Farm

The Staten Island Historical Society has generously offered a parcel of land at Decker Farm, part of Historic Richmond Town, for further development of the Founder Seed Program. On this parcel, seed plots of 7 natives wildflower and grass species have been established. Seed harvested from these plots will be stored in the GNPC’s seed bank facility and will be used for bulk seed production in the future.

Custom Seed Mixes

Cleaning of Harvested and Thrashed seed
Cleaning of Harvested and Thrashed Seed

As the Founder Seed Program develops, custom mixes will be offered if sufficient lead?time is available. All seed produced though GNPC for this program is stored separately, so that mixes can be blended for needed species and ratios.

Consulting on Appropriate Seed Mixes and Sowing Protocols

Our staff is developing considerable expertise regarding the agronomic conditions optimal for establishment of these species in restoration seeding operations. We are available to consult on appropriate seed mixes for given habitat and site conditions. We can also advise on proper sowing protocols and technical specifications. For assistance on any of these, please contact Lauren Stewart at (718) 370-9044 or by email at:

For more information about the native seed industry:

Native Seed Network

To search articles from the Native Plants Journal and to find propagation protocols:

Native Plant Network

For more information on agricultural and environmental topics in New York State:

Cornell Cooperative Extension

For information on in-field research of sustainable farm practices:

Rodale Institute - Sustainable Agriculture Research

For additional information on sustainable farm practices, organic production, and funding opportunities:

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

For information on seed testing rules and regulations:

Association of Official Seed Analysts, Inc.

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