Seed and Bulb Exchanges, some Comments

Lee Poulsen
Fri, 14 Jul 2006 14:22:56 PDT
On Jul 14, 2006, at 11:14 AM, Diane Whitehead wrote:
>   I haven't yet  heard some really good reasons why seeds of rare and
> endangered species should not be grown by hobbyists.
> ======================================================================
> The seed exchanges I was thinking of when I said that seeds of
> endangered plants shouldn't be offered on them are the ones that have
> over 5000 seed offerings each year.  The seeds go out in order of the
> request being received, donors first.  There is no guarantee that the
> people receiving the seeds will be able to grow them.

Thank you Diane for qualifying your remarks. They make more sense to me 
now. (Plus your additional comments in your email seem very reasonable 
to me.)

>   NARGS (North American Rock Garden Society) will not list seed of
> endangered plants.  I don't know what happens if such seed is
> donated.  Perhaps it is given to a botanic garden, which is what
> happens when CITES listed plants are discovered by Customs inspectors.

This very last point has been bothering me ever since the last time I 
brought some plants back with me from abroad (with permits and phytos 
and everything), and while the LAX Customs agent was taking them away 
from me to be inspected (and picked up the next day), I asked him what 
they did with plants that people brought back with them without all the 
permits. He said they would either destroy them or turn them over to a 
place designated to receive illegally imported plant material. I 
somewhat shockedly asked if they destroyed endangered or nearly extinct 
plants just because they were brought in illegally. He tried to assure 
me that no, they would turn those over to the proper people. When I 
further inquired who that might be and what they did with the plants 
(like rare orchids for example), he said that usually they gave those 
plants to the L.A. Zoo and the Zoo planted them in their gardens 
throughout the zoo.

Now I'm curious just why the L.A. Zoo would be better prepared and 
knowledgeable enough to grow any random rare plant that shows up, than 
anyone else including specialist hobbyists would be? And if all these 
confiscated plants are planted somewhere, even if they were turned over 
to better qualified places such as the Huntington or the San Diego Zoo 
for that matter, where are they and how can we find out what they are 
and where they're planted in order to see them? And in the case of rare 
orchids for example, who gets them? If someone tried to illegally bring 
a Worsleya back from Brazil with them and it got confiscated, who would 
end up with it and what would they do with it? It's not like any 
professional plant person or botanist here in California is really 
going to know how to grow it better than the top experts (but still 
merely hobbyists) on the Worsleya email list who have actually 
successfully grown them. In fact, I would bet there isn't any 
professional botanist or other official botanical professional here in 
California who knows better how to grow them than the best hobbyist 
growers in Australia do. I think the botanical officials here would 
stand a good chance of killing it.

Anyway, since I've never seen anything particularly rare or really 
unusual that is CITES listed that no one else has at either the L.A. 
Zoo or at the Huntington or the L.A. Arboretum, they're either 
permanently keeping them out of sight so that only the professionals 
who work there, and their friends, ever get to see them, or they're 
losing them just as much as we mere hobbyist would if we tried to grow 
them on. Furthermore, now that the plant is here anyway, why don't they 
propagate it in some way, by cloning or seeds or division, and get it 
out there so that bad people don't keep trying to smuggle them in and 
decimate the native populations? Just wondering.

End of gripe session.

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

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