Wild Harvest Live Stakes and Cuttings

What are Wild Harvest Live Stakes and Cuttings?

Certain tree and shrub species native to the Pacific Northwest will grow new plants from cut sections of branches planted into moist soil. We find that willows and black cottonwood generally have the highest success rates. Wild harvested live stakes and cutting materials (fascines, brush mattresses, etc.) are relatively inexpensive and simple to install-under the right conditions, they are easy and economical to plant. Cuttings root most readily if they are cut and planted in late fall through early spring, when dormant.

Where to use Wild Harvest Live Stakes and Cuttings

Live stakes and cutting materials may be used in a wide variety of habitats and applications: in wetlands, flood plains, marine bluffs, stream banks, lake shores, landslides, road slopes, and storm water detention ponds. Cuttings are a mainstay for bioengineering techniques, which incorporate live plant materials with other measures for stabilizing soil. Bioengineering techniques include live crib walls, brush mattresses, soil lifts, retaining walls, fascines, rip rap, and gabions.

Types of Wild Harvest Live Stake and Cuttings Material

Live stakes

Sections of branches without twigs or leaves that may be pounded directly into very soft soil. Pilot holes must be made in harder soils. For installation by hand, we recommend stakes ¾-1½ inches diameter (over the entire length) and 2 to 5 feet long, depending on the application. Photo above/left.

Brush material

Sections of branches with twigs and growing tips still attached. Brush material is used for certain slope bioengineering techniques and is usually 6-12 feet long with diameter not specified.

Bundle of 50 live stakes ready for planting.
Bundle of 50 live stakes ready for planting.


Bundles of brush material or stakes tied with twine that are planted across a slope in shallow trenches. Fascines are generally 4-8 inches thick and 6-12 feet long. Our information sheet, Fascine installation, has more information on how and why to use fascines. See photos of fascine installation below.

Live stakes, brush, and fascines are highly perishable and must be stored in shaded, cool, moist conditions before planting. They should be covered in burlap and thoroughly wetted daily. We recommend storing them in this manner for no longer than two weeks. Sticks stored for longer may have lower success.

Fascine Installation Photos

Our information sheet, Fascine installation, has more information on how and why to use fascines.

To install fascines, dig a shallow trench that follows the contour at the toe of the slope.
Use stakes to anchor
the fascines at intervals of 3–4’.
Use stakes to anchor the fascines at intervals of 3–4’.

Notes on Wild Harvest Live Stake and Cuttings Plant Species

The following species are commonly used in western Washington. Availability varies over time.

Species, Common name: Comments

Cornus sericea, Red-osier dogwood: Inconsistent results, sometimes high success rate but other times much lower success rate than willows.

Populus balsamifera, Black cottonwood: Good rooter, becomes a tall (>100') tree.

Salix sitchensis, Sitka willow: Good rooter, common on streams.

Salix lucida (lasiandra), Pacific willow: Good rooter, common in wetlands and riparian zones, somewhat brittle and thus more difficult to pound.

Salix scouleriana, Scouler willow: Drier sites and marine shores, roots slowly, often lower success rate than other willows, a shrub-tree that can grow <60' tall.

Salix hookeriana (piperi), Hooker willow: Occurs mainly within 5 miles of salt water, good rooter, long stakes can be more wiggly than other species.

Salix geyeriana, Geyer willow: Good rooter.

Symphoricarpos albus, Snowberry: Low-growing shrub, tolerates dry soil and sun, good rooter, rhizomatous, excellent for erosion control.

Other commonly collected species include hardhack (Spiraea douglasii), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), but these species had low survival rates in our own projects. Other species may be available upon request.

Ensuring the Success of Live Stakes and Cuttings

We recommend that you follow these guidelines for using live stakes and cuttings:

  • Install your project October 15th - March 15th (the earlier the better within this time frame)
  • Choose appropriate species for your site conditions
  • Collect cuttings from healthy plants while they are dormant
  • Store the cuttings for no more than two weeks and keep moist and shaded
  • Presoak your cuttings: submerge the bottom ends or the entire cuttings in water for 24-48 hours before planting.
  • Plant cuttings so at least half their length is buried in soil (deeper may be better, as long as a few buds at the top are exposed)
  • Monitor the cuttings for watering needs during summer drought-most situations will require some irrigation for the first year or two following installation

Stand back and watch the sticks turn into trees!

Ordering Wild Harvest Live Stakes and Cuttings

Sound Native Plants no longer sells live stakes and fascines, but there are very experienced former SNP employees in both Olympia and Portland, who offer this service. For live stakes in the Puget Sound area, contact Ty Andersen at Bogfoot. In the Portland area, contact Alex Slakie at Flora Northwest.

We recommend custom collected live stakes and other cuttings.

Place your order at least one month in advance of your planting date to allow for harvest time. Large orders may require more lead time and small orders may be done more quickly.

A typical minimum live stake order quantity is 50 stakes.

Standard live stakes have ½ - 1½ inches diameter and are up to 5' long. Larger material or material that meets tighter specifications are often available for a higher price.

Wild harvest live stakes and cuttings are priced by material type, foot-length, diameter, and species. Provide complete specifications when placing your order or bid request.

Willow live stake growing in a wetland
Willow live stake growing in a wetland