Paul Mills, Ganna Walska Lotusland

Ganna Walska Lotusland has many important plant collections, but none are more important from a conservation standpoint than the cycad collection. In the collection there are three mature individuals of Encephalartos heenanii which is now believed to be extinct in the wild. Ganna Walska Lotusland is working with the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cycad Specialist Group to develop an E. heenanii Assurance Colony (ex situ collection) as one of the two Assurance Colonies that are recommended – one in the country of nativity and one outside. E. heenanii is very reluctant to cone, even in South Africa, yet Lotusland produced seed for the first time ever in the United States in 2011 – we currently have 21 of these plants. A private collector in Southern California has banked pollen of E. heenanii for future pollination of Lotusland’s female plant. We hope to repatriate some of these seedlings to South Africa to aid in increasing genetic material for a future Assurance Colony there just as we are looking to acquire additional genetic material for our Assurance Colony. Genetic sequencing will be performed in the future. Our fledgling Conservation Fund will allow us to begin to work with colleagues in South Africa and to construct infrastructure for Lotusland’s Assurance Colony.

Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Kay Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden

Plant conservation is promoted through outreach and advocacy. One way to cure plant blindness is by engaging the public in authentic research, as illustrated by the Bud Burst citizen science program. After 10 years of crowdsourcing phenology data, Bud Burst managers decided they could better engage the public by bringing them on a journey of research: asking a question, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. The question currently under investigation at five sites across the U.S. is whether cultivars of native species provide the same pollinator support as true, wild-type natives.

Government officials must also learn to value plants and plant communities. The Chicago Botanical Garden recently collaborated with the Garden Society of America and other groups to write HR1572, the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research Restoration and Promotion Act. The bill creates an educational tool for elected officials, media and the public, and it encourages introduction of legislative proposals and enactment into law. The main aims of the bill are to fund needed research, encourage students to train for careers in botany and land management, and build a market for native plant materials.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019