The nursery workers are giving some TLC to seedlings, continuing their journey towards being planted on parkland around the five boroughs. But you won't see likely won't see these plants at your local playground or ball field.

"The majority of our material goes into natural areas and restoration work," said Nate McWay, Acting Nursery Manager of Greenbelt Native Plant Center.

It's the mission of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island. Located on a former family farm in the Travis section, the land was sold to the Parks Department in the 1990s, transforming into a nursery devoted to growing grasses, plants and shrubs native to the New York area. They produce half a million plants every year.

"This one was collected in 2007 at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island. This one is from Palmset, Long Island in 2009," said McVay.

Acting Nursery Manager Nate McWay showed me the operation, including a seed bank inside a low humidity walk in cooler.

Two staff members scour the area within a 100 mile radius of the city, looking for seeds for native species that could be grown and used for restoration and management of parkland. They collect seeds from 500 different species each year.

"We clean the seed, process the seed, store it, and as needed we put it into production," said McVay.

Another walk in cooler gets the seeds ready for growing by mimicking the colder weather of the northeast.   

"In order to grow, they need a dormancy period. And the dormancy period in nature is winter," McVay added.

Greenhouses provide heat and light needed for propagation and production.

The center was the brainchild of Parks Department botanists and educators on Staten Island, concerned by the impact of development on the borough's natural areas. It is now the only municipally run native plant nursery in the country.

"A lot of people are amazed at either how much we do or that anything goes on behind our fences," McVay said.

The native plant center also has fields. They grow plants here, collect the seeds, and can use them for future projects like the transformation of the old Fresh Kills Landfill into a park.