Joanna Booth of Salter Tree and Herb Farm
propagates rare and familiar native plants of the Southeast.
The plants have a common trait Ė they try their best to live. Most are more
tolerant of soil, sunlight, water, and pH variations than is generally known. All of the North Florida natives
will endure a freeze. Cold hardiness is unpredictable by species; some will grow well in Illinois, Ohio and
New York Ė others wonít grow in North Georgia! One Florida native, the Ashe Magnolia, grows from Illinois to
Connecticut! Some species that only occur naturally in wet places do better on slightly moist, deep
well-drained soils. And some respond to good nutrition by growing so fast they canít stand upright. It is safe
to state that any native species you plant in the dormant state and give extra care for a full year, you can
expect to live thereafter with a minimum of care. Pythium (root rot), over-watering and over-fertilizing are a
native plantís greatest enemies. The farm will attempt to produce any native species desired provided
seed or cuttings can be obtained.
The Salter Tree and Herb Farm began as the Salter Tree Farm, a
commercial forestry operation, in 1955. In 1975 the owner, Charles Salter, chose to devote full time to the operation
and to establish a nursery specializing in the propagation and culture of the native plants of the region.
Since horticultural information on native plants was rather
scanty and scattered, the first years of operation were for making mistakes and learning from them. Charles Salter
spent some 10 years before reaching the point that he could consistently produce over one hundred species of native
trees and shrubs for gardeners and landscapers.
In 1996 the Salter Tree Farm was closed and Charles Salter died
in 2002. Later that year, his daughter and granddaughter reopened the nursery as the Salter Tree and Herb Farm. The
farm was the scene of flourishing native trees and shrubs, many rare and endangered but with existing healthy stock
plants able to continue the course of propagation.
The original motive for establishing a nursery was to introduce
the desirable native plants into the nursery trade for home gardeners and landscape use. Some of the natives were
endangered in the 1980s, many continue to be rare in nature, many of them are as beautiful as the best species in
general use today. The best insurance for keeping the beautiful native plants is through propagation and wide use, for
the public will then grow to value them and create a demand for their availability. If this can be made to happen,
economic development and ecological disruption will not seriously deplete the fine stock of native plant material.