The seed orchard in Chico is run by the U.S. Forest Service. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Rows of trees growing in a line like they are a crop, a paved path meandering along a creek with a tree canopy providing an abundance of shade, a large greenhouse with a few busted glass panes.

This is the Chico Seed Orchard.

Bamboo-like stalks grow tall in the seed orchard. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

According to the U.S. Forest Service’s website, the primary functions of the seed orchard are to:

  • Provide high-quality, source-identified seed.
  • Enhance reforestation success in current and future planting environments.
  • Promote gene conservation in the Pacific Southwest Region.
  • Focus on ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir seed production.

The website says seed produced at the orchard benefits:

  • Ecological restoration
  • Wildfire recovery
  • Native American cultural values
  • Forest health, including research and disease resistance.

A 1-mile paved trail weaves through the site. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Started in 1904 as a plant introduction program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, today the Chico Seed Orchard is part of the Mendocino National Forest. This seems a bit odd since it is like an island unto itself with no other part of the national forest surrounding it.

The 209-acre orchard was established on land donated by the Bidwells. The goal was to amass a slew of trees and shrubs from around the world in order to study them for them for medicinal value, fruit, and landscaping.

A free pamphlet at the start of the 1-mile paved nature trail lists 71 plants coming from Russia, China, Japan, Korea, California, Ireland, Africa, South America, Guatemala, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. The flora includes Russian hackberry, lacebark pine, ornamental pear, giant reed, filbert of hazelnut, and kiwi.

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