though much of the world thinks Texas is filled with
nothing but cactus, cattle and cowboys, more than 22
million acres of the state are forested. The Texas
Forest Service, part of the Texas A&M University System
since its creation in 1915, works to protect and sustain
the state's trees, forests and related natural
The Texas Forest Service seedling
program, which provides seedling trees from two
locations — Indian Mound Nursery in Alto and West Texas
Nursery in Idalou — plays a significant role in
reforestation, aforestation and urban forestry programs,
growing and selling seedlings for a variety of purposes.
While the Texas Forest Service provides
reforestation seedlings — from 1,000 to several million
seedlings per order for large acreage plantings — they
also provide as few as 50 seedlings for smaller planting
projects and provide wildlife packets containing mixed
species that are designed for five acre and larger
parcels. Even though they don't usually sell seedlings
directly to homeowners, the Texas Forest Service's
seedling program can greatly impact homeowners as
on-going research helps determine which trees are best
grown in each region of Texas.
"To get big trees you have to start with
little trees," explained Harry Vanderveer, nursery
operations coordinator at Indian Mound Nursery, whose
east Texas operation produces 13 to 16 million "little
trees" each year. Although most of the annual seedling
crop is pine, Indian Mound Nursery also grows an
ever-increasing number of hardwoods, producing nearly a
million hardwood seedlings this year, Vanderveer said.
Indian Mound Nursery does not usually work with
individual homeowners, Vanderveer explained, because the
smallest unit his operation sells is 50 seedlings. "For
someone's yard, that's a lot of trees," he said. He
suggested that a landowner would need about half an acre
before considering that many seedlings.
many of the Indian Mound Nursery staff are knowledgeable
about arbor culture, Vanderveer said, their main focus
is forestry and wildlife and habitat improvement.
"We're careful not to appear competitive with
commercial landscape-type nurseries," he explained.
"Since we are part of the university system and a state
operated entity, we try to stay in the realm of forestry
and conservation plantings."
"We have a very
active and growing forest economy in east Texas and it
all begins with trees," Vanderveer said. "Reforestation
is one of our main target customer areas. We reforest in
the tens of thousands of acres each year in Texas,
somewhere around 50,000 acres annually."
Mound also provides seedlings used to transform open
lands such as pastures and farm fields that are being
retired into forest. "We call it 'aforestation' as
opposed to 'reforestation' since it's beginning a new
forest rather than replacing one that has been
harvested," Vanderveer explained.
Among the many
counties served by Indian Mound Nursery is the 40 county
area in east Texas known as the Pineywoods, Vanderveer
said. Pine reforestation is most active in the
Pineywoods, but hardwood planting is increasing.
"The hardwood planting is mainly for wildlife habitat
improvement, watershed protection, and aesthetics; it's
not so much for commercial timber production,"
Vanderveer explained. It also adds diversity to the
environment, breaking up what can appear to be a pine
monoculture. "When we drive around certain parts of east
Texas, we see the pine plantations in large acreages and
sometimes have ourselves convinced that all there is in
east Texas is pine, but really it's only about half of
the growing stock. Much of the hardwood is planted in
lower-lying lands near rivers and wet places,"
Vanderveer said. Because many of these areas aren't near
roads, many people don't see them.
Interstate 35 doesn't define the plant zones, it makes a
convenient navigating tool for anyone trying to decide
which nursery to contact about trees, Vanderveer said.
While there is some overlap in tree species needs along
the dividing line, Vanderveer said that the West Texas
Nursery primarily serves Texas from the New Mexico
border east to Interstate 35 and Indian Mound Nursery
serves Texas from the Interstate east to the Louisiana
Even though Indian Mound has 100 acres of
nursery fields, half designated for seedling production
and the other half for cover crops, Vanderveer said,
"Our production currently is such that we only use about
one-quarter of the acreage in a given year for seedling
production and we have more land laid out than in
Growing hardwood, which the nursery
is doing more of, consumes more acreage. "You can pack
more pines on an acre in a nursery than you do with
hardwoods — about three acres for each unit of hardwood
compared to each acre of pine," he explained.
nursery has not only increased the number of hardwoods
grown, but also tripled the number of species grown.
"Six years ago when I came to Texas they were growing a
dozen species of hardwood and only about one-quarter
million plants in total. This year we've got 35 species
of hardwoods and somewhere approaching nearly a million
plants in those 35 species," Vanderveer said.
Indian Mound concentrates on growing native species,
including only two non-native hardwoods — Chinese
chestnut and Sawtooth oak — among the 35 they produce.
Vanderveer said the nursery collects most of its
seed in east Texas. Some of it comes from orchards the
Forest Service maintains primarily for seed production,
while the rest of it is provided by seed vendors who
collect in Texas, western Louisiana, and southern
Arkansas. "Last year we purchased between nine and 10
thousand pounds of acorns and other hardwood seeds,"
Tree seedlings are an annual
crop, Vanderveer said. "We start over every year just
like we never did it before, but we've been doing it
since 1940," he continued.
Indian Mound tried to
serve all of Texas from the time it opened in 1940 until
the establishment of the West Texas Nursery in 1978,
Vanderveer said, but couldn't adequately serve the needs
of both east and west Texas. Finding trees that will
grow in west Texas is a challenge, he said, because
"You're placing trees in a part of the world that nature
didn't have trees to start with."
Many of the
trees grown at West Texas Nursery are imported from
other locations, other states, or even other countries,
Vanderveer said. "You have to be pretty careful when you
make those kind of introductions of species from far
away. A big issue right now and getting more attention
is we don't want to plant something that becomes
invasive, that spreads and becomes the next kudzu," he
WEST TEXAS NURSERY
regional forester, established the West Texas Nursery in
Lubbock in 1978 and recently oversaw the nursery's move
to a new, larger, facility in Idalou.
was the primary reason for establishing a second
nursery, Fewin said. "Indian Mound is in central/east
Texas, in an area where the growing season is close to
280 days and in the central plains our growing season is
about 170 to 180 days. We have extreme winters, extreme
drought, and trees that produce in the east Texas
environment do not readily acclimate to the high plains
A need for additional space
prompted the recent move to Idalou, Fewin said. They
were located on eight to nine acres at A&M University's
experiment station in Lubbock and bought 53 acres for
the new nursery. "We've been very fortunate to have
space here, but it has never been adequate. When we
moved, we selected a site that had a much better soil
for the field nursery," he said.
"With the new
nursery, we will dramatically increase the variety of
species that we grow," Fewin said. "We have more land
area and we have better soils. We will be producing a
broader variety of trees for the various regions in the
western part of the state," he continued.
Indian Mound grows a large number of loblolly pines,
Fewin said, West Texas grows more evergreens. "For us,
in arid zones, we grow evergreens, but they're entirely
different. They're evergreens that are adapted to the
arid zones. When I say arid, I mean 8 inches of rainfall
to 20 inches of rainfall," Fewin said. "We grow what's
best for this part of the state."
here is to grow a good quality seedling at a price that
the landowners can afford and try to grow a variety of
seedlings that accomplish numerous conservation goals,"
Among the ways that the West Texas
Nursery accomplishes these goals is by producing four
wildlife packets. Packet one is the quail and pheasant
packet, two is the deer packet, three is the turkey
packet and four is the squirrel packet, Fewin explained.
"The tree and shrub species we have in each of the
packets are tree and shrub species we feel are
beneficial to that particular wildlife species. For
example, the quail and pheasant packet will contain just
shrubs such as aromatic sumac, sand plum and Nanking
Cherry," he said. The deer packet includes species that
produce mast, like some oaks that produce acorns, and
native trees like western soapberry, which is excellent
cover for deer.
A wildlife packet designed to
attract and support a specific species can improve from
five to 25 acres, Fewin said. The Texas Forestry Service
works with wildlife biologists and with the Texas Parks
and Wildlife Department to determine what should be
planted and over how much acreage. The quail and
pheasant package is ideally suited in a one packet per
five acres ratio, but one packet can develop as many as
25 acres. "So, at least, for every quail and pheasant
packet, you're improving habitat on 25 acres," he said.
With the new site in Idalou and the new ability to
sell seedlings from their Web site, Fewin said he hopes
to reach and serve many more Texas landowners.
Vanderveer and Fewin travel
throughout their respective regions, so they understand
the varied needs of potential buyers, but both men spend
a great deal of time on the telephone working with
prospective seedling buyers.
"I probably spend
almost as much time talking people out of planting
certain things as I do trying to impress upon them that
they need to plant or grow certain things," Vanderveer
"Our program area is an extremely large
area," Fewin explained. "It is not practical for us to
work on site with every landowner, because we just don't
have that kind of staff. We spend a lot of time on the
In addition to the two nurseries, the
Texas Forest Service maintains offices throughout the
state to assist landowners of all types.
the Texas Forest Service's seedling program isn't
designed to sell directly to individual homeowners, it
does serve the needs of Texas landowners all across the
state, from farmers, ranchers and rural landowners to
municipalities of all sizes and soil and water
conservation districts that resell individual trees to
Thanks to the concerted efforts of
the Texas Forest Service and their annual crop of
"little trees," Texas may one day be known for its
loblolly and lumberjacks.