Saving Endangered Plants

Max Withers
Thu, 08 Sep 2011 20:42:23 PDT
I have been following this exchange with great interest on a newly-purchased
smartphone during breaks in a lengthy jury service. Thank you all for
entertaining me!

I will resist ponderous pronouncements about the ephemeral nature of all
human endeavor -- individual or institutional -- and just note that even Kew
is only a few hundred years old. How many plants from the 1789 Hortus
Kewensis are growing there today? Of course our work as individuals is even
more transitory than an institution like Kew or Kirstenbosch, and our
motives more suspect, or at least opaque. And scattering a plant around some
gardens is no substitute for preserving natural breeding populations.

Since that last goal is simply unrealistic in many (almost all?) cases, what
we might call the distributed model of ex situ plant conservation that has
been so eloquently defended here has to be considered the best chance for
the survival of endangered and threatened species in any form at all. I
suspect that funding/staffing shortfalls as much as an ivory tower mentality
are to blame, but perhaps I am too charitable.

Off to contemplate my own mortality,
Max Withers
Oakland CA

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