A little more than half the Garden is set aside as native Southwest Florida habitat. Our first job as leaders in plant conservation is to protect what’s growing on our site through careful land management. Currently, our natural areas include 26 native species that are found in just one botanical garden collection and 35 species that are not known to exist in any other collection. The onus is on us to make sure those species survive the threats posed by climate change, invasive species and human development. To better the odds, we share seeds, plants, and cuttings from these natives with partnering gardens, so they can protect those plants, too.
We work with other land managers to develop conservation practices, as well. Currently, we’re collaborating with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to protect populations of the native thatch palm, threatened by saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels.
Beyond Southwest Florida, we’re collaborating with botanical experts to document plants in their natural habitat throughout the Caribbean and Latin America and determine their likelihood of extinction. We then prioritize conservation efforts toward those species that appear to be most at risk. This is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List process.
Photos: Field Work