Growing Native


Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds participate in Growing Native by collecting acorns and other native tree seeds across the region. Not only are participants creating forests for tomorrow, they are also learning the important connection between healthy, forested lands and clean water.

Since Growing Native’s inception in 2001, nearly 56,000 volunteers have collected more than 164,000 pounds of acorns, walnuts, and other hardwood tree and shrub seeds. These seeds have been used to grow seedlings that are planted to restore sensitive streamside forests. In addition to providing native trees for stream restoration, Growing Native builds public awareness of the important connection between healthy, forested lands and clean water, and what individuals can do to help our local environment.


See a day in the life of a Growing Native volunteer!

Thank you to the team at Stone Soup Films for this incredible video!

Questions? Contact Director of Community Conservation Katie Blackman at 301-608-1188 x.213 or


Why is Growing Native important?

The Growing Native program was started because Maryland and Virginia state nurseries are in need of native trees. The nurseries need acorns and other native tree seeds to grow seedlings and meet the ever-increasing demand for streamside tree plantings. To replenish the supply of native seedlings and ensure diversity in the nurseries’ trees, Growing Native was established in 2001. The majority of the acorns and other seeds collected for Growing Native are used to establish diverse and healthy streamside forests, which improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. 


Why are seeds and trees so valuable?

Trees provide many community benefits.
Trees are nature’s Brita filters. They filter out toxins and improve water quality naturally. Our region’s forests provide the cleanest waters to the Potomac River. Healthy trees are critical to human well-being and wildlife prosperity. Trees also cool our cities, filter the air we breathe, and provide homes and food for wildlife. Their leaves produce life-giving oxygen, and their roots reduce soil erosion and absorb pollutants that would otherwise foul our rivers and streams. Their branches and trunks are home to a bird watcher’s premier list including the great blue heron and American bald eagle.

Native trees are important.
Native trees are especially important because they are adapted to local soil, rainfall, and temperature conditions and have developed natural defenses to withstand many types of insects and diseases. Because of these traits, native plants will thrive with a minimal amount of maintenance. Native trees also help our local wildlife by providing habitat and food. Plants and trees that are imported from other parts of the nation and the world can actually bring unintended harm, hurting our local plants and animals. 

Our communities have a tree shortage.
In the Chesapeake Bay region, 100 acres of forest are lost every day. Restoration goals set by the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan call for 900 miles of streamside forests, also called riparian buffers, to be planted each year until 70 percent of all streams in the Bay region are lined with trees. We haven’t reached that goal yet, but you can help us get there!

Trees address the problem of polluted runoff.
In the heavily urbanized counties surrounding Washington, DC, polluted runoff poses the greatest threat to water quality. In fact, polluted runoff is the only growing source of pollution to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Trees help filter polluted runoff before it flows into local streams and creeks. Trees also prevent streambank erosion, which pollutes our waters with harmful sediment that can hamper the growth of underwater vegetation, harming wildlife, and affecting water quality. 


Growing Native provides future forests for healthy rivers and streams

Growing Native engages volunteers of all ages and backgrounds in an effort to restore riverside lands. Restoring sensitive streamside habitats will provide a frontline defense for the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay for years to come.

Questions? Contact Director of Community Conservation Katie Blackman at 301-608-1188 x 213 or