Boyce Tankersley btankers@gmail.com
Thu, 16 Jan 2014 14:57:16 PST
Hi All:

Several years ago (about 8 if memory serves) Jane McGary, Robert Pries, Jim
Shields and I informally discussed the challenges of incorporating private
plant collections into botanic gardens and/or the NAPCC. The challenges
identified back then are still valid today - and they have done an
excellent job of elucidating them.  The point that Dennis Kramb makes about
the longevity of his collections related to their hardiness in his climate
has corollaries in the botanic garden world as well. Non-hardy
containerized plants are more susceptible to over/under watering and
heating systems that break down in winter, as well as other environmental
factors critical to survival, and for this reason Chicago Botanic Garden
(and I believe most if not all of the other NAPCC collection holders) have
avoided them (Paul Licht, can you think of any exceptions?).

The American Public Gardens Association organized and maintains the North
American Plant Collections Consortium.  It is the closest thing we have to
the British National Collections in the USA and Canada.  An important part
of the collection application requires the legal commitment of the Board of
Directors to provide the resources needed to maintain the Collections
indefinitely or until they can pass the collection onto another
institution.  The absence of the equivalent of a Board of Directors for
private collection holders is not an issue that can be easily overcome.

As a result of the discussions with Jane, Rob and Jim, I mentored several
private collection holders in an effort to create the kind of documentation
that needs to be passed onto future care holders.  Most of them did not
have the resources (time, interest and/or knowledge of computer
databases/spreadsheets) necessary to create these records. The missing
piece of the puzzle wasn't the scientific or biological value of the
collections or the knowledge of the critical information about each
accession but rather an individual who was interested and able to work with
the collection holder over a period of time to get all of the information
recorded on their behalf.

A database for this purpose doesn't have to be fancy. In fact, for most
private collections, I would recommend using a spreadsheet application like
Excel.  From my perspective, the *critical* point is that all private
collection holders must utilize a template that incorporates the names for
the fields (columns) that is current usage in the botanic garden/biological
collections world.  This insures that if an opportunity presents itself in
the future to more formally recognize these collections and make their data
available to the scientific community the information would be easily

Best wishes to all from a very snowy and cold Chicago.

Boyce Tankersley
Director of Living Plant Documentation
Chicago Botanic Garden

On Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 6:06 PM, Jane McGary <janemcgary@earthlink.net>wrote:

> Robert Pries wrote
> >There is a new initiative occurring in the American Public Gardens
> >Association. It is a system of National Collections similar to the
> >British System. These collections are meant to preserve the genetic
> >diversity within the nation. The USA is far behind in this effort,
> >compared to the British. A major component of the system is a will
> >that allows for the transfer of a collection to another new or
> >existing National Collection Holder. Many years ago I tried to talk
> >with the Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboretums. They were
> >not interested in working with private plantsmen. I believe this is
> >partly due to a vocal scam artist who was milking plantsman at the
> >time for plants he could sell in his nursery by claiming to run a
> >National Collection System.
> The aforementioned person also contacted me, but I found him so
> annoying that I turned him away.
> I'm sure our British members will have things to say about the
> National Collections program. I've heard a lot about it and also have
> a book on it. I know that some of the British National Collections
> are wonderful, well-curated resources, but I've also encountered
> people who had, or wanted to have, a National Collection but seemed
> not to know enough about what they were collecting. Such a program is
> vulnerable to various kinds of conflict.
> On the other hand, the idea of a database of private collections has
> been discussed previously on this forum. I wouldn't mind contributing
> my data to a project like that.
> Jane McGary
> Portland, Oregon, USA
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