G. robertsoniae and sustainable seed collecting

Lee Poulsen wpoulsen@pacbell.net
Fri, 18 Nov 2011 11:34:49 PST
To all of Mike's great examples/suggestions, I'd like to add one more, which could be just as controversial as some of the ones he mentioned. What about collecting some seeds for the express purpose of selling them far and wide, enough so that it reduces the pressure to wild-collect or poach from protected locales, especially when those are the only locations where the species is available from. To me, a perfect example of this is when Kirstenbosch  did this after Clivia mirabilis was first discovered. They collected a bunch of seed, germinated it, and then announced to the world that small plants would be made available to anyone around the world who wanted a few. They were priced extremely reasonably (especially compared to prices I've seen recently), and I believe they successfully reduced the pressure for orchid-thief-type collectors to possibly have poached them into extinction in the wild.

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

On Nov 18, 2011, at 10:09 AM, Michael Mace wrote:

> Alberto wrote:
>> If they are rare species living as a single tiny population should people
> buy it?
> In the case of G. robertsoniae, the photos that accompany the article show
> what looks like thousands of individuals at the sites where it grows best.
> I personally believe a small amount of seed collecting at one of those
> sites, done in a year when it blooms abundantly, would be a net benefit to
> the species because it would get it established in cultivation.  
> But I think Alberto's asking a more general question, and it's worth
> discussing.  If a bulb is rare, when is it proper and not proper to collect
> material from it, for the net benefit of a species?  Is it ever OK to dig
> bulbs from a rare species (the only time I can think of is when the
> bulldozers are coming tomorrow)?  How many individuals need to be growing in
> order to make it safe to collect seeds?  What percent of the seeds should
> you take at maximum?  How often?  If you collect in a situation like this,
> should you plant some of the seeds on site (presumably to reduce predation,
> offsetting the loss caused by what you took)?
> The problem with any red list of endangered plants is that they get on the
> list through multiple paths.  If you read through the South African list,
> some of the most endangered plants are on the list because they have a
> protected location, but there are only a few individuals in the wild.
> Moraea loubseri comes to mind.  To me, it's hard to justify collecting more
> seed from that one in the wild.  Others species are on the list because
> they're locally abundant but growing in only a few sites that have no formal
> protection.  G. robertsoniae sounds like the latter from what I've read.
> Those might be prime candidates for some careful seed collection, as a
> lifeboat for the species. 
> I have heard anecdotal "rules of thumb" from various seed collectors in the
> US and elsewhere on when to collect, how much, etc, but I've never heard of
> any agreed guidelines.  Do those guidelines exist?  If not, can we create
> some?  I don't know who else would do it, and I'd like to know that any
> seeds I buy have been "sustainably harvested."
> Mike
> San Jose, CA

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