National Tree Seed Centre
- Welcome to the National Tree Seed Centre
- Seed collection and storage
- Ordering seed
- Ash conservation
- Additional resources
- Contact us
Conservation of ash genetic resources
Emerald ash borer (EAB), an exotic insect, poses an economic and environmental threat to ash trees in Canada. Since it was discovered in Windsor in 2002 it has spread rapidly across southwestern Ontario. In 2006 the insect was found in London and in 2008 in Ottawa and southeast of Montreal. It continues to expand its range in Canada.
The larvae bore into the tree, creating tunnels in the wood under the bark. These tunnels disrupt water and nutrient flow, killing the tree. Every ash species is susceptible, which means EAB threatens the existence of ash in Canada. It is therefore important to collect ash seed before Canada’s ash resource is decimated.
The need for an ex-situ conservation strategy
In 2004, the National Tree Seed Centre started collecting ash seed for genetic conservation.
Natural ash populations have adapted to their environments. Preserving germplasm from a significant number of these populations will facilitate the reintroduction of ash species once adequate environmental control measures for EAB are developed or trees resistant to the insect are bred and introduced. The easiest way to assemble breeding material is to collect seed from native stands. The seed will not transmit EAB to non-infested areas.
When properly handled and stored, ash seed will remain alive for many decades. Seed can be easily distributed to scientists and growers to produce seedlings for EAB research, breeding, genetics projects, other scientific study and future reintroduction efforts.
We encourage organizations as well as the general public to assist us in this effort by locating ash stands and populations and collecting seed to send to us.
To ensure the proper identification, collection and preparation of ash seed for sending to the Centre, we ask that you read the guidelines below before you start and follow them during the collection process.
What ash species are native to Canada?
Five native species of ash occur in Canada:
- black (Fraxinus nigra)
- green (F. pennsylvanica)
- white (F. americana)
- blue (F. quadrangulata)
- pumpkin (F. profunda)
Blue ash and pumpkin ash are rare. They are found only in southern Ontario at the northern fringe of their natural ranges.
Non-native species of ash have been planted in urban areas and used for landscaping. Seed from non-native species must not be collected for sending to the Seed Centre.
How to identify ash species correctly:
It is essential to collect seed from correctly identified trees. Characteristics can vary within a species and a tree of one species can sometimes look like it is another species. It is therefore necessary to examine all characteristics to make an accurate identification.
If you cannot positively identify the species, DO NOT collect the seed for the Centre. When you submit collected seed, we ask that you include a sample twig and pressed leaf from the tree in question. See “Where to Send the Seed” below.
Trees are best identified and flagged in August, well before seed collection time.
For assistance with ash identification:
When to collect:
Ensure that seed is ripe before collecting it.
- Collecting too early will result in seed that is not completely mature.
- Collecting too late will result in losing seed to natural seed fall.
- Black ash is usually ready by mid-September. All the other ash species are ready to collect after the end of September.
Where to collect seed:
- Collect seed from natural stands only.
- Do not collect from planted trees such as in parks, along streets or on residential properties. The seed used to grow these trees may have originated elsewhere and not be well adapted to the growing conditions of the site it is planted on.
- Avoid collecting from single, isolated trees. Within a stand or area, collect seed from at least 15 trees (but more if possible, up to 25). Trees should be at least 50 to 100 metres apart.
How to collect seed:
Place seed collected from individual trees into separate bags, one for each tree.
- Use large paper grocery bags, which will aid in allowing the seed to dry.
- Assign a number to each tree and clearly label the paper bag with this number as well as the tree’s location. Also place a label with the corresponding information inside the bag.
- NEVER use plastic bags.
- Collect seed directly from the tree, NEVER from the ground. Seed on the ground could be from any tree.
- Before starting to collect, check a sample of seed for insect damage and to ensure the seeds are filled. If seed quality is low, move to another tree. Keep in mind that seed quality varies from tree to tree.
- Collect 6 litres from each tree (includes seed and the associated stems of the seed clusters).
- Pole pruners may be used to cut off branches. If a ladder is required to climb up into a tree, ensure that someone is trained to do this and the appropriate safety equipment is used.
- Seed may also be collected from harvested trees as long as the trees were cut when the seed was ripe and fully mature.
- After collection, place the bags in a well-ventilated area to allow the seed to dry.
What information to record:
On one sheet of paper, record the following information for each tree that seed is collected from:
- name of collector
- collection date
- the number you assigned to the tree
- location (place name)
- GPS coordinates in decimal degrees for each tree (latitude and longitude)
- Site description
- Make a copy for your records and then send the sheet (or sheets) to us with the seed.
- Also include with your submission a map on which the collection sites are clearly marked.
How to pack the seed for sending:
- When the seed has air-dried for several weeks, staple the bags closed.
- Pack each carefully, along with its related twig and pressed leaf samples, in a box (or in as many boxes as needed). The leaf samples should be kept flat and separate by tree. All the samples can be sandwiched between two pieces of corrugated cardboard
Where to send the seed:
- Send the boxes by courier to the National Tree Seed Centre (shipping address below), where the seed will be cleaned, tested and stored.
- Please call or email the Centre before you send your shipment (see contact information below) to confirm arrangements.
Natural Resources Canada
National Tree Seed Centre
1350 Regent Street
Fredericton, NB E3C 2G6
Manager, National Tree Seed Centre
Supervisor, National Tree Seed Centre