Saving Endangered Plants

Tim Chapman
Tue, 06 Sep 2011 18:52:01 PDT
Lee brings up a few very good points.  I've introduced numerous zingiberaceae spp over the years into the US.  These have come from other collectors, foreign nurseries, botanic gardens, and from my own collecting trips.   Over the years I've lost many of these for various reasons. My early mentors stressed trading material and I'm glad I listened.  Many of the ones I have lost are still well established in the trade, some have made it to several other countries etc etc.   I've been focusing on seed lately as an easier way to get plants established in several peoples hands in many different regions.  In reality I know it's just extending the inevitable but at least they have a better chance. 

I started when I was 12 or so, and even at that age I was able to write to botanic gardens and taxonomists and found most very willing to send plant material.  Over the years botanic gardens have become much less inclined to share for several reasons including the ridiculous notion that the country of origin should receive financial compensation if a plant were released.  99% of these plants aren't and won't be grown for release by nurseries in the country of origin.  The restrictive policies ensure no nurseries anywhere will bother with the red tape etc.   

Over the years the following things have proven true:

Saving large expanses of native habitat is the only chance of long term survival. Even then it's not guaranteed. 

Collectors die and so do their plants. Botanic gardens change staff, change goals, lose funding, and have greenhouse failures.  Unusual weather patterns can wipe out species in a particular region in one season.   Gardeners' tastes change often and the trade follows.  Once commonly cultivated plants can disappear from the scene incredibly fast. 

Basically no one group is capable of saving anything long term (the life of a collector is not long term).  And in reality all the groups together can't do that much more.  When survival becomes dependent on human intervention and cultivation, extinction is inevitable.    If plants can't be in a suitable climate with their pollinators, all that can be done is prolong their end a little longer.   Depressing view but hopefully illustrates how idiotic plant hoarding is by anyone or institution. 

Tim Chapman

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