||Stones River National Battlefield has been using native plants in its rehabilitation and preservation efforts since 1994. We first used natives while restoring two Civil War-era earthwork sites. At the beginning of this process, we planted warm-season native grass seed and plant plugs from commercially available sources that were rarely local. Since our first use of natives on the earthworks of Fortress Rosecrans, we have expanded our restoration efforts. We have extended native plantings to other areas across the park, increased species diversity in our planting mixes, established a geographic range from which we will accept plant material, experimented with a variety of establishment and collection techniques, and established monitoring plots to determine the effectiveness of our planting efforts. We also continue to fine tune our plant establishment techniques at the earthwork sites. We are now using natives to revegetate former house sites, old agricultural fields, and sites where exotic invasive plants have been treated. Our new native mixes include forbs and cool-season native grasses in addition to the warm-season native grasses we began with in 1994. We are trying to restrict our planting to “local” genotype plant material. Fortunately, we are now able to purchase seed and plants from commercial sources in Kentucky and middle Tennessee. We are also becoming increasingly reliant on plant material from noncommercial sources in Rutherford County including Stones River National Battlefield itself. We have collected seed from a state natural area within eight miles of the park and hope to expand our collection activities to other comparable sites within
Rutherford County. We make extensive use of hay, collected locally and on-site, that has been cut in late October or early November when native warm-season grasses and many native forbs bear viable seed. Through a contract with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
(NRCS), grass and forb plugs are being grown from propagules collected from a high-quality xeric limestone prairie within the park. This spring we planted the first plugs produced through
this contract in increase fields on the park. Data collected through monitoring aid us in finetuning our techniques and determining the effectiveness of our eradication and planting efforts. We monitor the earthworks using a protocol and permanent plots established in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and a private contractor. We also monitor sites where we have treated exotics and planted natives. We have experimented with plant establishment methods to
deal with the unique and challenging conditions presented by the earthworks. With steep slopes and highly compacted nutrient-poor soil, establishment of almost any kind of desirable vegetation can be very problematic. To increase the probability of successful plant establishment, we built a low-tech seeder that can be used on the steep slopes of the earthworks, and we are also experimenting with turf composed of native warm- and cool-season grasses. Through these
concerted efforts, we have greatly increased our ability to manage park land in a sustainable manner. We have learned much since 1994 and have had a good deal of help along the way. We have relied on the knowledge and assistance of local, state, and national organizations and agencies; nonprofit groups; Middle Tennessee State University; local businesses; and hundreds of volunteers. Through these partnerships and the contributions of an inventive and energetic
resources staff, Stones River National Battlefield has made great progress in its efforts to rehabilitate, restore, and preserve one of this country’s significant cultural resources.