Commercial sales of protected plants

J.E. Shields
Sat, 22 Dec 2007 07:36:17 PST
The Huntington Botanic Gardens near Los Angeles, California, has a 
marvelous collection of large barrel cacti, most of which were handed over 
to them by conservation officers, customs agents, etc., after confiscation 
of the plants as stolen or smuggled.  I don't know if they propagate these 
confiscated species from seeds at the Huntington or not.  They do attempt 
to propagate some of their rare species of plants.

I have assumed that many botanic gardens are designated to receive plants 
confiscated by the government for lack of proper documentation.  Does 
anyone know if this is true of other gardens besides the Huntington?

Documenting populations by their DNA is a limited reality already, but this 
method is still far too expensive and cumbersome for widespread use.  It is 
surely just around the corner for just this purpose.

In South Africa, the native populations are somewhat exempted from the 
conservation laws when they collect plants for use as traditional herbal 
medicines or "muthi."  This is endangering many rare species.  Attempts to 
propagate such species in cultivation and thereby take the pressure off the 
natural wild populations simply led to the "discovery" that the wild plants 
were far more "potent" for muthi than the cultivated plants.  You can see 
these plants (both sorts) on sale in the local markets.

There are not any simple, easy solutions to preserving rare and endangered 
plants and animals.  There is however a basic rule of the universe:  Simple 
solutions to complex problems are always wrong!

Best wishes,
Jim Shields
in central Indiana (USA)

Jim Shields             USDA Zone 5             Shields Gardens, Ltd.
P.O. Box 92              WWW:
Westfield, Indiana 46074, USA
Tel. ++1-317-867-3344     or      toll-free 1-866-449-3344 in USA

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