Here in the U.S., gardens of all shapes and sizes are redefining what it means to be a conservation garden. On this page, you will find short profiles of the creative and diverse ways that BGCI members are leading the way in raising awareness about the importance of plant diversity, the need to conserve it, and taking actions to halt its loss locally, regionally, nationally and worldwide. Please send your conservation garden story to usa @ bgci.org.
BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN
High School Curriculum in Environmental Science
In 2002, Brooklyn Botanic Garden took on a daunting education task: starting a new public high school in New York City. The following fall, the first freshman class enrolled at the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE), a partnership between BBG, the New York City Department of Education, New Visions for Public Schools, and the Prospect Park Alliance. Students pursue typical high school studies in math and English, but the school’s focus on environmental science sets it apart. Biology and chemistry labs utilize BBG’s outdoor gardens and conservatories to provide real-life settings for typical high school science fare. They work with botanic garden staff to learn science research skills and gain exposure to environmental careers. As a result, student attendance ranks above the norm for New York City schools and test scores are rising.
UNITED STATES BOTANIC GARDEN
Rare Plant Interpretation
At the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., educating visitors about rare and endangered plants means bringing conservation information front and center to the visitor experience. Plant labels don't just identify a species and its native region; they also highlight its ranking on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Botanic gardens and other institutions are home to many plants on the brink of extinction in the wild. Calling attention to these plants and international conservation efforts, such as the IUCN Red List, is a simple and effective way to create powerful learning for the visitor.
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN
High School Education Challenge
Reaching high school students was a familiar challenge for Caroline Lewis, Director of Education at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL—until recently. In 2002, she launched The Fairchild Challenge, a series of individual and whole-school botanical and environmental competitions to promote environmental stewardship and plant conservation action, and meet crucial state learning standards. The response has been overwhelming. In its fifth year, more than 25,000 students from 91 middle and high schools in Miami participated. Additionally, The Fairchild Challenge has been launched at satellite gardens throughout the country (including BGCI members Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, Chicago Botanic Garden, Desert Botanical Garden, and U.S. Botanic Garden). You can read more about The Fairchild Challenge in a 2006 article in Roots, BGCI’s education review.
CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN
Invasive Species Research and Policy
With the publication of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, the profile of plant conservation and the role of gardens in achieving conservation targets have been elevated. Many botanic gardens and arboreta have adopted conservation as part of their mission and are evaluating their practices through this prism. For gardens that are developing or maintaining collections from geographically diverse regions, the potential of introducing an invasive species has become a major concern. Like many gardens, the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) in Glencoe, IL maintains a horticultural collection that includes species appropriate for its climate from around the world. To build the collection, CBG has participated in exploration trips to countries in Asia and Europe, as well as other parts of the United States, to bring back new plants with horticultural merit. Because imported species may become invasive (escape cultivation and have a negative environmental impact), CBG has developed and implemented an invasive plant policy. Dr. Kayri Havens, Director of Plant Science and Conservation at CBG, wrote an article in the January 2006 edition of BGjournal presenting suggestions for gardens that are considering developing their own invasive plant policies based on the experience at CBG. Click here to read CBG’s invasive plant policy.
MEADOWLARK BOTANICAL GARDENS
Collection-based Education for Conservation
In the United States, the vast majority of native plants in the American nursery trade are selections, and most amateur gardeners use these selected plants without realizing where they came from. To address this issue at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, Director Keith Tomlinson has overseen the creation of three distinct native plant collections. Two of these collections contain regional, wild-collected native plants while the third contains both wild and selected plants. These collections are being used to interest and educate ornamental gardeners about the diversity and conservation needs of native plant species. Their goal is to encourage the use of native plants in the landscape and educate the public about the often-subtle differences between native species that represent wild populations and horticultural selections. They also educate the visiting public and avocation gardeners alike about the ecological and conservation value of native plants in public garden collections and in the landscape at large. Read more about this work in BGCI’s publications, including a 2005 article in BGjournal and a 2001 article in BGCNews.
Displaying the overwhelming beauty and diversity of plants
This small private estate-turned-garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania has only been open to the public since 1993, but very effectively fulfills its mission as a pleasure garden. Visitors to Chanticleer are treated to carefully orchestrated displays of plants from around the world and invited to relax and enjoy the beauty and diversity of plants around them. It is impossible to leave this place without a respect for and deep appreciation of plants in all their diversity, a key component in any effort to engage individuals in supporting plant conservation.
THE CENTER FOR PLANT CONSERVATION AND THE PLANT CONSERVATION ALLIANCE
Conservation organizations with botanic garden members
Many BGCI-member gardens in the U.S. are also members of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), an organization that works with and through participating botanic gardens to conserve and restore the rare native plants of the United States.
Likewise, many botanic gardens and conservation organizations in the U.S. (including CPC and BGCI) are members of the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA). The PCA is a consortium of 10 federal government agencies and over 225 non-federal cooperators who are focused on on-the-ground conservation and targeted public outreach efforts to ensure that native plant populations and their communities are maintained, enhanced and restored. Link to past presentations at PCA meetings (including a presentation on BGCI) here.