J. W. Toumey Nursery
The mission of J.W. Toumey Nursery is to demonstrate the highest standards of forest nursery management through the production of high quality bare root and container stock in the requested quantities and in an economic manner. These seedlings are required to support the Integrated Resource Management implementation of Forest Plans of our clients.
The nursery was established in 1935 in response to a growing need for tree seedlings. It was named in honor of a professor, James W. Toumey, at the Yale School of Forestry. Toumey was internationally known as an authority on forest seeding and planting. The Toumey Nursery is the last remaining Forest Service nursery in the Eastern Region.
Under the management of the Nursery Superintendent the nursery produces bareroot and containerized tree seedlings and native plants for planting on seven National Forests in the Lake States. These forests include the Ottawa, Huron-Manistee, and Hiawatha in Michigan; the Chequamegon-Nicolet in Wisconsin; and the Chippewa and Superior in Minnesota.
The J.W. Toumey Nursery personnel provide hosted tours for a wide range of groups including: University forestry students, elementary through high school students, numerous organizations, and any individual or group with an interest in Nursery practices.
To schedule a tour please contact our office at 906-358-4523 to set up a tour.
We are located at: E23985 Old U.S.2 E Watersmeet, MI 49969
Contact Us: Phone 906-358-4523
Office Hours 7:00-3:30 M-F Central Time
Operations are broken down into five major divisions:
We extract and clean a large variety of seed each year at the Toumey Nursery. We use multiple types of equipment to achieve the necessary results. The seed is collected when it is ripe and usually sent to the Nursery from other Forest Service units or the Oconto River Seed Orchard. A variety of methods are used to collect the cones and seed.
Jack pine, Red pine, White pine and the spruces make up the bulk of the seed that comes to the Nursery. Most of the cones are shipped first to the Oconto River Seed Orchard where the seed is extracted from the cone. This seed arrives at the Nursery with the wings attached to the seed. The wings are removed during the cleaning process to allow for improved storage conditions. The seed is placed into drying screens where it remains until the moisture content of the seed reaches specifications. At this point the seed is then put into a gravity separator where the hollow seed is separated from the good seed. A small sample is then sent into the seed lab for moisture and germination tests. When the results come back we either store the seed in our seed cache for future use, or sow it into our fields or greenhouse. This all depends on what the Forest Silviculturists have requested.
Other seeds are shipped directly to the nursery. Many of the shrub species require the fleshy portion of the fruit to be removed before it can be stored. Once the fleshy portion is removed, the seeds are dried down for storage. Acorns are sown in the fields in the fall of the year that they are collected in. They are floated to separate the good seed from the seeds that float. Native grass and forb seed is also cleaned at the nursery using some of the same equipment as the tree seed.
The process that goes into cleaning the seed for storage can be long and tedious work. It is important that the seed that is collected is high quality seed. Some of the conifer species may be stored in the seed cache in excess of 20 years. If the seed is cleaned properly it will remain viable seed for many years.
The nursery area includes 110 acres, with 66 acres currently available for planting. The number of trees grown in the nursery is determined by each National Forest's yearly projected needs. At full capacity, it is capable of producing 12 million seedlings per year.
Because of a short growing season and the growth habits of the trees involved, three years are required to grow most species before the stock is ready for outplanting. Only two years are needed for jack pine and a few other miscellaneous species.
As with almost every type of plant, the trees of tomorrow's Forests have their beginnings as small seeds. Planting is done during late fall and early spring on prepared seed beds by a mechanical seeder capable of sowing seven rows at a time. Seed is carefully sown to desired depth and density to assure the best possible product. The amount of seed required is based on each Forest's requests, the predicted germination percentage, the expected seedling survival percentage, and an estimate of actual plantable seedlings at the end of the rotation. Prior to sowing, seed is often put into stratification to help increase germination success.
Soil is the basis for good overall nursery management; and soil, like weather, is constantly changing. Seedling production creates a drain on soil nutrients and makes careful soil maintenance a continuous program. Laboratory soil analyses are run at intervals, on specific locations, and wherever close observation of tree growth suggests soil deficiencies. Prepared fertilizers, additives to adjust soil acidity, and sawdust to increase organic matter, are just a few examples of the annual treatments that may be made based on these tests.
To insure predictable results and high grade planting stock, nursery personnel and equipment work with nature throughout the seedling development and growth phases. Through miles of irrigation lines, water is pumped and distributed to the seedbeds through a network of underground lines. Some other activities carried on during the growing season include root pruning, vertical pruning, top pruning, mechanical and hand weeding, pesticide applications, fertilizing, and seedling inventory.
During late summer, seedbeds to be sown in the spring are fumigated. Fumigation involves applying a sterilizing chemical in the soil that kills weed seeds, nematodes, insects, and fungus spores capable of creating severe tree losses.
Harvesting is the culmination of two to three years of hard work and intensive management. It is critical that the seedlings are harvested during dormancy in late fall or early springs because dormant trees can be replanted at another site without damage if properly cared for in storage and transportation. The large majority of the trees at Toumey are lifted from the ground by means of a mechanical tree harvester that shakes the soil from the roots. The hardwood species are lifted with a hand lifter.
The Nursery includes 110 acres, with 60 acres currently available for planting. The number of trees grown in the Nursery is determined by each National Forest's yearly projected needs. At full capacity, it is capable of producing 7 million seedlings per year. There are two 140' greenhouses which produce approximately 250 thousand containerized seedlings annually. There is also one smaller, 60 foot greenhouse used for superior tree grafting and the propagation of cuttings.
Approximately 3.8 million seedlings are raised and distributed annually by the nursery, with a total inventory near 8 million. Principal species include Red pine, Jack pine, White pine, Spruce, and Northern red oak. In addition to timber reforestation, seedlings are raised for research, wildlife plantings, and erosion control.
We produce a wide variety of seedlings as a one year crop. This gives our clients the advantage of receiving their requests on a yearly basis (versus two to three years as a bare root crop). We have been diversifying our production capabilities, enabling many new species to be added to our species list. Our greenhouses are equipped with overhead lights, heat, irrigation booms, and injector systems. We grow our seedlings in various sizes of styroblock containers. Seed is sown using a precision seeder.
In our 60 ft greenhouse we have alternating crops with one year devoted to maintaining our White pine grafting program with the following year being used for Jack pine grafting. The White pine and Jack pine grafts produce seedlings that become seed sources for various National Forests of the Eastern Region. The seedlings are then transplanted at the Oconto River Seed Orchard to maintain a supply of seed for reforestation efforts. Between one and two thousand seedlings are grafted each season. Cuttings are also produced in this greenhouse, mainly Canada Yew.
Maintaining the genetic integrity of tree seed has long been a focus at the J.W. Toumey Nursery. That same integrity is being applied to our native plant program. The Forest Service has recognized that a continuous supply of native grass and forb seed is necessary. The Forest Service's directives state that we are to "promote the use of native plant materials for the revegetation, rehabilitation, and restoration of native ecosystems". In order to make this happen, there needs to be a supply of native seed to meet this demand. The J.W. Toumey Nursery is establishing a native plant seed increase program to aid in this effort.
Botanists have carefully examined the native species on the Ottawa National Forest and have chosen species that are best suited for seed increase based on their population and frequency, biological and morphological characteristics, and site requirements. For the Ottawa National Forest, the main "work horse" grass and forb species are listed below.
Initial seed is collected by hand from the forest and then planted in our nursery beds to increase the quantity of seed for the National Forests. Seed is mainly harvested with a flail vac and cleaned in our seed cleaning facility. The seed is stored at the nursery for our National Forest clients.
In our greenhouse facility we have produced plugs of native forbs. The greenhouse space is limited and geared more towards trees and shrubs. When space is available, the greenhouse provides an excellent way to propagate native plants.
The tree improvement program at the JW Toumey Nursery is primarily focused on grafting conifers. Grafting is a method used to propagate plants by fusing a portion of one plant to part of another plant. We start with rootstock from White pine or Jack pine, respectively, which is grown at the nursery as bareroot stock. Each spring we transplant one to two thousand of our larger bareroot stock into pots and continue to care for them for an additional growing season.
In January or February, while trees are dormant, small branches are cut from mature trees on the National Forests. These small branches, typically of last season’s growth, are called scions. The scions carry with them the genes from the parent tree that it was cut from. The parent trees are carefully chosen for certain characteristics. These “superior” trees may be chosen for various aspects, such as, their resistance to diseases or pests, excellent form, or rapid growth. The scions are grafted onto the rootstock, mainly with veneer grafting techniques.
Veneer grafting involves making similar length cuts into the cambium of both the scion and the rootstock. The cuts are matched up and held together with elastic bands. As the seedlings come out of dormancy in the greenhouse, the scion begins to uptake nutrients from the rootstock. As the scion and rootstock grow, they fuse together. The tree that is ultimately produced has the genetic makeup of the scion and parent tree that it was cut from.
From the time of grafting, usually January and February, grafted seedlings are cared for in the greenhouse with high humidity. In spring the grafted seedlings are transplanted to a shaded area at the nursery where they continue to grow for one to two years as the grafted seedling is pruned to specifications. The successful grafts are planted at the Oconto River Seed Orchard. Ideally, each of these trees will become orchard trees that are grown to produce seed to meet the reforestation needs of the National Forests. The seed that will be collected is carefully tied to the area that the parent material originated from. The trees at the orchard ensure seed collection opportunities for the future.