Sharing seeds of rare plants

Tim Eck
Tue, 11 Nov 2014 21:10:51 PST
I haven't heard anyone state the obvious yet - that CITES is a primitive,
misguided mistake that should be corrected.  Its results are as devastating
as the results of prohibition where the net result was to increase
alcoholism and create a class of mobsters.  The problem is that there are
nowhere near the resources available to do something useful in species
conservation so they did something stupid instead.  "When the only tool you
have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail".
Recently I investigated having American chestnut tissue culture done in a
Canadian lab that specializes in hardwoods.  But I wouldn't be allowed to
bring it back to the states EVEN IN FLASK because of the risk of chestnut
blight (virtually non-existent in Canada and 110 years too late) and the
chestnut gall wasp (non-existent in Canada and 30 years too late).
Frankly, I think civil disobedience is in order wherever feasible.

-----Original Message-----
From: pbs [] On Behalf Of Hannon
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 11:19 PM
To: Pacific Bulb Society
Subject: [pbs] Sharing seeds of rare plants

Jane brings up some challenging aspects of enjoying and sharing rare bulbs.
I have been involved in several rare plant restoration projects (not bulbs)
and have an interest in cultivating uncommon bulbs so will add a few
comments on a complicated subject.

When someone puts forth the idea that there is a supposed risk of
hybridization or genetic erosion of a rare plant held in captivity in
private hands it presupposes, among other possibilities, that 1) the
cultivated plants are being grown in proximity to a wild population that
could be contaminated, or 2) the cultivated material will be used in future
restoration projects to help a particular species. Both of these scenarios
are exceedingly unlikely for any particular species.

In consideration of conservation issues, why should there be any restriction
on any cultivated rare plant that has been artificially propagated? This is
where CITES, in not regarding nursery grown plants as procedurally distinct
from wild-collected plants, fails to balance the needs of people and plants.
Some plants are at risk from over-collecting certainly, but the far greater
threat to rare plants-- all plants-- is habitat alteration or destruction.
That is a much more difficult problem to subdue than supposed transgressions
of the nursery trade and collectors.

No one can say what is the harm in gathering a pinch of seed from any
population of plants, rare or otherwise. Since bona fide seed banks
regularly collect seed from populations of endangered species with
scientific guidance we could assume that sampling per se is not harmful.
Should collecting wild material of a rare species for a purpose other than
authorized conservation work be illegal? Who decides what is appropriate
utilization of these resources?

Only by cultivating rare plants can we learn the skills needed to supply
market demand (e.g., Cypripedium reginae, Tecophilaea cyanocrocus) and at
the same time be able to assist restoration efforts of those same species.
Expert horticultural ability is not in the skillet of the biologists,
ecologists and land managers who take up reintroduction work directly. This
is one of their greatest weaknesses for project success and also an
opportunity to build bridges. At the same time, we should remember that
reintroduction work adheres to strict scientific guidelines for the long and
complex process of outplanting experiments. "Horticultural" material of rare
plants, even when documented, would only very rarely be considered for such
work. In this sense our beloved plants are not conservation material but
they are just as important in their role as the subject of an essential
human endeavor.

It is debatable if the display or availability of rare or endangered
(listed) plants risks someone being inspired to then go out and take plants
or seeds from the wild. A much more likely and demonstrable outcome is that
cultivated rare plants inspire people to appreciation (apart from growing)
of precious natural resources and raise awareness of the importance of
conservation and stewardship. Those who would advocate that stewardship
should be restricted solely to nature management need to provide a sound
argument for that position and explain where the importance of rarity trails
off and we can then justify the asters, daylilies and liquidambars all
around us.

"*Do we have a moral duty, then, to abandon **Fritillaria liliacea or
Erythronium elegans to extinction?*" Jane, I think that would be abandonment
of moral duty.

Dylan Hannon

*"The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful
plant to its culture..." --**Thomas Jefferson*

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