Effects of Pre-Planting Soaking on Growth and Survival of Black Willow Cuttings


Present address of corresponding author: University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, U.S.A. Phone: (803)725-7283; Fax: (803)725-3309; E-mail: sschaff@uga.edu


Black willow (Salix nigra) uses periodic flood events for dispersal of vegetative propagules, subjecting them to periods of soaking before their deposition along the streambank. It was hypothesized that this life history trait results in optimal conditions for willow growth and survival. To test this hypothesis, a greenhouse experiment was conducted using 1.2-m-long black willow cuttings (posts) with a basal diameter of 5 cm. Cuttings were subjected to three soaking treatments (0, 3, and 10 days) and then grown under four soil moisture regimes (control, drought, permanently flooded, and intermittently flooded). Growth, biomass, and survival were recorded. Results showed that soaking posts for 10 days was most beneficial in the control soil moisture regime, enhancing root, shoot, leaf, and total biomass production. Shoot abundance and growth were also enhanced by 10 days of soaking in the control and permanently flooded moisture regimes. Finally, survival increased significantly in control and drought moisture regimes in response to the 10-day soaking treatment. Results clearly demonstrated that soaking had significant effects on willow post success when evaluated across all soil moisture regimes. Posts subjected to the 10-day soaking treatment consistently had greatest growth and biomass and displayed a doubling of the survival rate. Therefore, soaking willow cuttings before planting is a simple, inexpensive technique that may be used to bolster streambank restoration success.