Collection holders

Lee Poulsen
Tue, 13 Sep 2011 10:28:06 PDT
I actually like all the suggestions that Mike made. I read all the other posts describing problems that have arisen with formal collection holder methods in other countries, but the kind of semi-informal method Mike suggests might be able to avoid a lot of these problems. In some ways, his suggestions resemble what at least a couple of organizations in the fruit tree arena have developed. California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) has a created a list of "Fruit Specialists" who know a lot about a particular species of fruit tree. They also usually grow many different cultivars of that particular species. CRFG used to publish the names of the specialists and their species along with an address or email address to which you could direct questions, in their bimonthly journal to members. These days, you just send an email to a central address and it gets re-directed to the appropriate specialist. These specialists don't sell trees or budwood, but I have noticed that several of them often bring budwood or small trees to some of the meetings of members of CRFG. Another organization, North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX), has what they call "Interest Groups" for each species of fruit of interest to the members of that organization. Each group has a leader, usually an expert grower of that species, and his or her name and address or email address has been published in the quarterly journal of that organization. The original intent was that members of an interest group would keep in touch with each other about how their particular cultivars of that species were growing in their climate and location, trade information, as well as trade trees or budwood. 

It could be that unless some kind of gateway is put in place, these specialists would be harassed too often or get requests all the time to provide the asker with all kinds of rare bulbs or seeds. So maybe that is the reason both of the above organizations limit access to these specialist by way of membership in their organization.

I read the very interesting email from Kathryn Kennedy, and working in a scientific arena, I appreciate all the technical and scientific worries of the professionals working in plant conservation. But as someone else mentioned, there are simply not enough of them. And their worries about the native areas might be fine in an ideal world. But two things: 1) I don't know of any bulb hobbyist who has plans of repopulating native areas themselves with material they are growing. And 2) even if they did, despite all the negatives Kathryn mentioned about what might happen if such activities were undertaken, if the species goes extinct, it's not going to make a bit of difference that home-grown genes tainted a native population that no longer exists. Knowledgeable growers, like many on this list, are not conservation biologists' enemies. And even though the experts have a PhD in this area, it doesn't mean they know how to grow the plant. One example I know about is Worsleya procera. Very few botanical gardens seem able to grow this at all. Of the very few that do, even fewer seem able to ever flower it. Yet on the Worsleya specialty email list, there are quite a number who not only can grow them amazingly well, they can flower them year after year, get them to produce seeds, and even produce enough grown-on plants to be able to sell/distribute them in quantity from time to time to other interested hobbyists around the world. They are quite expert on the care and culture of this plant. Almost none of them have ever been to its native location, nor do any of them have plans to repopulate it. Yet I am almost certain that due to their efforts, a tremendous amount of pressure on the dwindling native population has been removed. And a lot more people are growing Worsleya than ever before. Plus, they have a lot more information on how not to kill them, so therefore many more are becoming successful at growing them. This translates into a lot of Worsleya being successfully grown and propagated around the world, which I think overall is a good thing, not a bad thing. And in the future, someone new getting into Worsleya for the first time has a much better opportunity not only to obtain this rare plant, but to grow it successfully him- or herself than has ever been the case before.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA - USDA Zone 10a
Latitude 34°N, Altitude 1150 ft/350 m

On Sep 12, 2011, at 11:20 PM, Michael Mace wrote:

> Tom wrote:
>>> Why not establish an informal network of US-based 'International
> Collections'?
> I really, really, really like Tom's idea.
> To build on it a little bit, here's what I picture:
> --A collection holder would be recognized by us (the PBS) as someone with
> expertise and enthusiasm about a particular genus, plus a good collection of
> it.  As Tom mentioned, we could have more than one collection holder for a
> genus, and in fact that would be better because we'd be less at risk of
> losing rare species to a single disaster.  
> To give a couple of examples, I think Bob Werra would qualify for Moraea,
> and Jane McG. for Calochortus (and for a lot of other things).
> --We would identify collection holders on the wiki.
> --Collection holders would be informal information sources on the genus.  If
> you have a question about how to grow it, they'd be a good resource to ask.
> --Collection holders would also attempt to spread the genus by sharing seeds
> and excess corms.
> --Finally, collection holders would be expected to make plans to preserve
> their collections after they're no longer around.  This could be facilitated
> through the PBS.  For example, if I get hit by a bus, my wife has
> instructions to call Mary Sue and invite the PBS over to take charge of my
> bulbs.
> Most of those are things we'd all do anyway, so what's the incentive to be a
> collection holder?  Status, for one thing.  But also, we all ought to also
> make sure that a collection holder gets first crack at a rare species when
> seed of it becomes available, on the assumption that they'll have the best
> chance of propagating it successfully and sharing it with others.

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