Nursery History

The Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF) has been growing seedlings for Virginia landowners for 100 years. The department’s applied research program has greatly influenced nursery practices as more research has assisted the nurseries in fine-tuning their nursery practices over the years to ensure the best quality seedlings for Virginia landowners.

A Chronological History

The DOF nurseries have evolved over the years to become what they are today. Take a look at some highlights of the nursery evolution.

1914 – Office of the State Forester established

1916 – Mr. J.P. Taylor of Orange, Va., donates $500 to establish a tree nursery program

1917 – University of Virginia (UVA) provides land at Lambeth Field for the first nursery

– First seed for 20,000 trees was sown (loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, white pine, Norway spruce)

1923 – Additional species (scotch pine, Douglas fir, Japanese larch, catalpa, locust) added

1927 – Nursery moved to a new site of the current Scott Stadium on the campus of UVA.

1928 – Additional species (arborvitae, Austrian pine, ash, white oak, slash pine, redwood, red pine, bald cypress, longleaf pine) added

1929 – Seedling production reaches 250,000 trees annually

– Nursery moved to make way for Scott Stadium; relocated to a new site of the current DOF mechanics’ shop

– Nurseries “inherit” thousands of seedlings from Camp Lee near Petersburg after “military forest” is abandoned

1939 – Seedling production reaches 1 million trees per year

1947 – A second nursery opens at Camp Peary near Williamsburg

1951 – Seedling production reached 9 million trees per year

1952 – Camp Peary Nursery is returned to the U.S. Navy; New Kent Nursery opens at Providence Forge

1958 – Seedling production reached 42 million trees annually

1966 – Augusta Nursery established

1968 – DOF employees developed the first full-bed mechanical pine seedling lifter

1984 – Sussex Nursery in Sussex County established

2004 – New Kent Nursery closes

2014 – DOF nurseries celebrate 100 years!

2017 – First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe harvests the 2 Billionth seedling grown by DOF nurseries

Innovation in Nursery Operations

Mechanical Pine Seedling Lifter

In the early years of the Virginia Department of Forestry’s nursery operations, seedling harvesting was performed by hand, which required a large number of people and was very inefficient. In 1968, the department borrowed a prototype mechanical seedling lifter from New York. After experimenting with the prototype, the department’s employees designed and built a machine using rear ends out of trucks and many custom-made parts. The employees developed the country’s first full-bed mechanical pine seedling lifter, which was capable of harvesting more than 20 million seedlings each season. The technology was shared with anyone who was interested, and today’s seedling harvesters are based upon this design.

Additional Resources

ImageTitleIDDescriptionContent Typehf:tax:document-categoryhf:tax:document-tagshf:tax:Media
Acorn and Nut Identification Guide
Acorn and Nut Identification GuideFT0060

Forestry topic information sheet helps in identifying the most common acorns and nuts in Virginia to assist in the collection for our nursery.

Vieweducation nurseries public-informationacorns-nuts forestry-topics tree-idpublication
DOF Pine Seedlings are Top Choice - Genetically-Improved Seedlings Explained
DOF Pine Seedlings are Top Choice – Genetically-Improved Seedlings ExplainedFT0001

Forestry topic information sheet details why Virginia trees are your best choice, including cooperative research efforts, advantages of our genetically-improved pine, benefits of top clipping seedlings, importance of dormancy, pales weevil treatments, and details about our genetically- improved seedlings available for sale.

Viewnurseriesforestry-topics genetics loblolly-pinepublication
Hardwood Planting Guide
Hardwood Planting GuideP00137

Brochure illustrates and explains proper planting techniques for planting bare-root hardwood seedlings. Printed copies available.

Viewnurserieshardwood-management homeowner-assistance landowner-resources reforestation seedling-nurseries tree-plantingpublication
Pine Planting Guide
Pine Planting GuideP00117

Brochure illustrates and explains proper planting techniques for planting bare-root pine seedlings. Printed copies available.

Viewnurserieshomeowner-assistance landowner-resources pine-management reforestation seedling-nurseries tree-plantingpublication
Planting Instructions for Your Loblolly Pine Seedling Plug - Tips for Success
Planting Instructions for Your Loblolly Pine Seedling Plug – Tips for SuccessFT0030

Forestry topic information sheet provides instructions for proper planting of a loblolly pine seedling plug.

Viewnurseriesforestry-topics homeowner-assistance landowner-resources pine-management reforestation tree-plantingpublication
Reforestation Tree Seedling and Service Order
Reforestation Tree Seedling and Service Order12.01Viewnurseriesseedling-salesform
Seedling Price Guide
Seedling Price GuideP00139

Brochure provides a listing of seedling species available for sale at our state Nurseries and current pricing. For more detailed species information and to order online, visit our Web Store. Printed copies available.

Viewnurserieshardwood-management homeowner-assistance landowner-resources pine-management seedling-nurseries seedling-sales tree-plantingpublication
Seeking Acorns and Nuts to Grow Seedlings
Seeking Acorns and Nuts to Grow SeedlingsFT0011

Forestry topic information sheet encourages citizens to get involved in the collection of acorns and nuts for propagation at our nursery, including the species needed, how and when to collect, and where to deliver seed.

Viewnurseriesacorns-nuts forestry-topicspublication
Services for Landowners
Services for LandownersP00112

Brochure provides information about the services available to landowners from the Virginia Department of Forestry, including forest management and forest health, timber harvesting and water quality, land conservation, tree seedling production, and resource protection. Printed copies available.

Viewfire-and-emergency-response forest-health forest-management forestland-conservation nurseries urban-and-community-forestry water-qualityagency-services conservation forest-health-impacts forest-planning land-planning landowner-assistance seedling-nurseries timber-harvesting water-quality-laws water-quality-protection wildfire-prevention wildfire-suppressionpublication
Tree Seedling and Understory Plant Presence in Deer Exclosures on the Matthews State Forest
Tree Seedling and Understory Plant Presence in Deer Exclosures on the Matthews State ForestCNRE-138NP

The purpose of this case study was to determine the impact of deer on the composition of the herbaceous and regeneration layer in two stands in the Matthews State Forest. This report summarizes the findings of this case study.

Viewforest-management nurseries research-resource-information state-forests resource-informationhardwood-management wildlifepublication
Tree Seedling Catalog Order
Tree Seedling Catalog Order12.02Viewnurseriesseedling-salesform
Your Roots are in Virginia
Your Roots are in Virginia

This poster is a pictoral representation of the history of DOF nurseries.


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