Seed and Bulb Exchanges, some Comments

Lee Poulsen
Tue, 18 Jul 2006 17:28:04 PDT
Thanks for those references, Max. In the Chronicle of Hi Ed article it 
mentions the Phragmipedium kovachii slipper orchid of Peru. If you ever 
get a chance to sit down with Harold Koopowitz, you should have him 
tell you his first hand version of the story about it. Quite amazing 
what people will do to get these rare new plants, and so sad what 
happens to them in their native habitat.

I'm still puzzled why much greater efforts aren't made to get seeds or 
offsets or clones into the hands of as many people as want them in an 
open and as timely a manner as possible. It seems to me that this would 
go a huge way towards making the poaching of them much less lucrative 
to the point even of making it not worth the effort.

For example, the article mentions the Wollemi Pine of Australia. While 
this has taken some time to get out to the public, and personally, I 
think that even the smallest tree seedlings are so overpriced as to 
counteract the good effect of getting them out to those who really want 
one, nevertheless, I think it greatly, greatly, reduced the pressure to 
pay poachers to get one knowing ahead of time, almost from when they 
were first discovered that efforts were being made to reproduce them so 
that anyone who wanted one could have the opportunity to purchase one. 
And not having to wait decades for it either.

I think the same can be said about the new Clivia species C. mirabilis 
that was recently discovered. Once everyone who really wants knows he 
or she can easily get one fairly soon after the discovery, without 
reducing the native population at all, where is the incentive to have 
massive poaching of wild-collected plants? I think it was a brilliant 
maneuver in the case of both of these species to announce almost right 
away the efforts to get these new species out to those collectors who 
really wanted one.

Why they couldn't have done something similar with the cactus species 
Max mentioned, I'm not really sure.

Even for species that have been known for a long time but that are 
extremely rare, similar efforts can be done. For example, the recent 
efforts by two men in Australia to sell seeds (last northern winter) 
and now plants of Worsleya procera to those who desire them all over 
the world, I think will be an enormous boon to reducing pressure to 
collect them illegally from the wild. A consignment of 100 Worsleya 
plants was just shipped to the U.S. this week (and smaller consignments 
have been sent to a number of other countries/continents). This can't 
but help in a big way to have the dwindling native population remain 
more undisturbed.

My criticism of the Wollemi Pine prices is that if you way overprice 
things or otherwise make it very difficult to obtain one, then you hurt 
your stated effort to reduce the desire to get wild-collected plants. 
Another example of this is in the realm of animals. I think 20 years 
ago or so, there was a new breed of cats produced by careful breeding 
from ten or twelve different lines including some wild cat species to 
produce a nice house cat that had the same kinds of spotted fur 
patterns as various leopards and other larger cats. The stated 
objective was to reduce the desire to have them hunted for their pelts 
as well as reduce the desire to attempt to raise cubs of the actual 
large cat species. However, the result of their efforts in my opinion 
has rendered their stated objective nearly worthless. First, they sold 
the first number of final litters in the Niemann-Marcus Christmas 
catalog for a very high price, creating a spectacle but not really 
doing much about getting these "out there" into the general population 
that wants them. To this day, the breeding of them is highly controlled 
and restricted, and even a neutered kitten is IMO hugely expensive. 
They have managed to produce a variety with a coat that resembles 
almost exactly that of the snow leopard, which I find particularly 
striking. But I have no desire to constrain myself to the requirements 
of owning one, let alone pay the asking price for one. Not that I plan 
to go on a hunting safari or buy a leopard pelt off the black market 
any time ever. But it just seems like they're not even trying to 
accomplish their original stated conservation goal.

On the other hand, I'm only human. And I find that I really would love 
to obtain a number of the Hippeastrum species, for example, that come 
from the Bolivia/Peru/N. Argentina region of South America. I don't 
want to get them illegally. I would much much prefer to get seeds or 
offsets from horticulturally grown plants. But they're not available. 
Contrast this with efforts such as that of Mauro Peixoto of Brazil who 
offers seeds from time to time of a number of the Brazilian Hippeastrum 
species, including the rare more desirable ones. For a mere pittance it 
seems, I've been able to get my hands on a number of the very desirable 
Brazilian species without harming any of the wild populations there. I 
think Osmani is providing a similar service to the native populations 
of many Chilean geophytes.

Anyway, I think I have a good point with some valid examples in this 
long-winded response of mine. Or am I missing something?

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USDA Zone 10a

On Jul 18, 2006, at 11:19 AM, Max Withers wrote:

> There is an interesting article in the new Chron. of Higher Ed. about
> how the publication of new species leads almost instantly to their
> extinction (thanks to poachers and the ubiquitous "German and Japanese
> collectors"):
> If botanists worked with seed exchanges, they could ameliorate some of
> the pressure on rare plants. Of course, in the case of extremely scarce
> plants like Ariocarpus bravoanus, exchanges won't help much. See:

More information about the pbs mailing list