Red spruce greenhouse to break ground this fall
A $100,000 grant from the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority has put a $2 million project to build a red spruce nursery past the halfway mark of its fundraising goal.
The Southern Highlands Reserve, located in Lake Toxaway, has grown thousands of red spruce trees for planting on public lands across the region, and now it needs a larger, more efficient nursery facility to raise the 50,000 additional trees the U.S. Forest Service has requested. The Transylvania TDA’s grant combines with $300,000 from the National Forest Foundation and several contributions from private donors and family foundations to total more than $1 million raised to date. The new greenhouse will replace a pair of 20-year-old hoop houses, featuring improved energy efficiency and more than doubling current capacity within the same footprint, while offering enhanced opportunities for visitor education and a home to the dozens of other native plant species the Reserve propagates for restoration projects as well as home gardens.
The Reserve plans to break ground on the project this fall and to hold a grand opening in summer 2024.
“We are honored and grateful to work with this incredible team of people to streamline restoration work and preserve our natural resources for the generations to come,” said Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks. “By working together the way trees and plants do, we can save rare and threatened plants and animals.”
The red spruce, the largest conifer indigenous to the Southern Appalachians, is central to the region’s ecosystem. More than a century of logging, fire, pollutants and parasites has taken its toll on the red spruce population, which forms part of the spruce-fir ecosystem housing two federally endangered species, the Carolina northern flying squirrel and the spruce-fir moss spider, among other rare species. As warming temperatures push more species northward and to higher elevations, these forests will be an important refuge.
The Reserve is a founding member of the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, a group of organizations, agencies and institutions working to preserve, protect and restore the spruce-fir ecosystem.
“Our restoration efforts for red spruce rely heavily on our partnership with SHR and their ability to produce genetically sound stock,” said Lorie Stroup, biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “Increasing their capacity with a new greenhouse will greatly increase our ability to restore this ecosystem that desperately needs our help.”