Prairie restorations are increasingly common throughout the central United States. However, we continue to have little information about which planted species become successfully established, or about the factors potentially limiting establishment. We used a combination of site surveys, field tests and germination testing to examine these issues. We surveyed thirty 4 to 6 y old Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) plantings to quantify the likelihood that planted native species can be found 4–6 y after planting. We then selected a subset of species that had been planted in the CRP sites for use in germination tests and field tests quantifying emergence and seedling survival. We found that nearly one third of the species planted in CRP sites failed to become established and that grasses were more likely to be successful than legumes or nonleguminous forbs. We also found that species with low establishment in the CRP sites often had low emergence rates in the field experiment and low germination rates in germination testing despite differences in seed origin and planting year. Our results suggest that germination may be a major limiting factor in the establishment of some tallgrass prairie species.
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