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Seed Champions | Issue No. 4

🌿🌱 Benoit Bertrand: Cultivating Quebec's Native Plants for 27 Years 🌱🌿 Meet Benoit Bertrand, founder of Pépinière Rustique, a Quebec-based native seed nursery. Benoit's childhood passion for nature led him to create the nursery in 1996, fostering conservation. Through research and hands-on experience, he propagates native species, contributing to projects like Monarch butterfly habitats and riparian strip restoration. Embracing technology's role, Benoit sees connectivity as pivotal, enabling collaboration for nature's benefit. His journey underscores the significance of preserving local plant diversity in the face of climate change. Pépinière Rustique's legacy exemplifies sustainable practices and the power of community in safeguarding native flora. 🌎🌱🍃

Benoit photographed from behind a row of lush plants with pink flowers.


Always passionate about nature and wildlife, Benoit Bertrand founded Pépinière Rustique (a native seed nursery in Quebec) in 1996 as a way for him to learn about the native plants of Quebec, introduce them, and make them widely available. He holds a degree in horticulture from the Institute of Agri-food Technology of Quebec. Through outdoor outings and travels, Benoit is able to keep an eye open for new native species to propagate.


Wilder Climate Solutions (WCS): What initially sparked your interest in ecology and the conservation of native plants, and how did you develop your passion for this field of study?

Benoit Bertrand (BB): I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural environment, where my playground was the vast forests in the mountains. My interest in botany became more defined when I had the opportunity to join a group of Young Naturalists in my community around the age of 12. There, I met people with extensive knowledge and deep respect for nature, which profoundly inspired me. I later pursued studies in horticulture, quickly realizing that the wild nature held the most meaning for me. I also had a strong desire to cultivate plants. And so the idea of a nursery for native plants became an obvious one. I started out on my own in 1996, and now Pépinière Rustique is a team of seven to bring the project to fruition.

A hand holding a seedling to be planted in the ground

WCS: As the leader of Pépinière Rustique, you have dedicated yourself to providing native plants from Quebec for 27 years. Which specific aspects of seed behaviour and plant biology have you targeted, and how do they contribute to your conservation efforts?

BB: Initially, very little information was available about the propagation of native species. I had to conduct extensive research, observations, and experiments to understand how to cultivate each species. This remains true today for several new species we work with. Whenever possible, we reproduce plants from locally sourced seeds that we collect ourselves in the natural environment and from our gardens, or through our network of contacts. This has always been of great importance to us and is also a challenge. An example of this challenge is knowing where wild populations grow to find seeds. When feasible, we plant these seeds in our gardens for better control over seed production. In our work, everything starts with the seed, and this determines what we'll be able to grow...or not. Next, we prepare the seeds for germination according to their specific needs. For some species, this can take up to two years.

WCS: Pépinière Rustique's commitment to ecological restoration projects and natural character gardens is remarkable. Could you share a memorable experience where your work directly influenced a successful seed conservation project or contributed to preserving a particular plant species?

BB: This kind of impact is difficult for me to measure. But I can cite the following examples as remarkable and for which I'm proud to be involved:

  • The production of thousands of milkweed seed packets every year, which are distributed by cities to promote the habitat of the Monarch butterfly.
  • The supply of native plants and seeds for university and government research programs for the implementation of floral strips in agriculture.
  • Collaborating with cities to provide citizens with native seeds and plants introduced to lawns to enhance biodiversity and resilience.
  • Supplying plants and seeds for the restoration of hundreds of riparian strips, contributing to improved water quality in lakes and rivers.

WCS: Seed banks play a crucial role in preserving plant biodiversity. How do you envision the future of seed conservation, and what challenges do you anticipate for the long-term preservation of seeds, particularly native plant species in Quebec?

BB: Species preservation starts with habitat conservation. After this, living collections and seed orchards are very effective tools, especially when species and habitats are threatened. Additionally, propagating and making native species available as plants or seeds is a very simple and concrete way to aid in their preservation. It allows a multitude of people to easily participate in conservation efforts, creating a tangible impact. Finally, it allows more people to get to know and appreciate the native plants in their immediate environment, and to become aware of their ecological importance.

WCS: Climate change poses a significant threat to many plant species. How do you believe Pépinière Rustique, as a nursery focused on native plants, can contribute to climate adaptation strategies and enhance the resilience of plant communities in Quebec?

BB: I believe that native plants, at least in our climate, are highly adaptable. To this end, it is of the utmost importance to use local seed sources to obtain the best-adapted plants and respect the genetics already present in our region.

Snapshot of the plant nursery

WCS: Looking towards the future, what breakthroughs or innovative technologies do you believe are the most promising for advancing research in native plant ecology and its application in conservation? How do you envision Pépinière Rustique adapting to these advancements in the future?

BB: When I started the nursery in 1996, the Internet barely existed. Today, thanks to this technology, we can easily connect with people who are interested in native plants and thus facilitate their distribution. This might seem commonplace in our era, but it was a true revolution that allowed our nursery to thrive where failure would have been easy. The next innovations in our field will be of the same type: connecting people and sharing information, for the benefit of nature (including humans).