Catching Up with Conservation: The National Collection

Behind the scenes at Bok Tower Gardens, the Rare Plant Conservation Program maintains a National Collection of rare plants. The maintenance and curation of this collection is part of our involvement with the Center for Plant Conservation, a national consortium of botanic gardens and conservation organizations tasked with preserving threatened and endangered flora.

The National Collection consists of a living collection and a seed collection of Florida rare species. Although the seed collection provides long-term storage to preserve the germplasm of many species, the living collection is uniquely important. It is a place to preserve living specimens of species that have recalcitrant or unorthodox seeds which do not retain viability in storage (two of these species include – Ziziphus celata and Asimina tetramera), to preserve individuals rescued from development and construction sites and whose genetic material may otherwise have been lost, and to provide rare plant material for research or educational efforts so wild population are less impacted.

The living collection at Bok Tower Gardens comprises sixty 10’x25’ beds and houses over 30 rare species. Maintenance of the living collection involves regular weeding, irrigation upkeep, repair of the fabric lining the aisles around the beds, and mowing the surrounding buffer areas. Volunteers are essential in keeping the collection in good shape.

As of mid-December, over 500 volunteer hours alone have been dedicated to maintaining the living collection in 2021. Two dedicated volunteers, Dot Demyan and Bea Armstrong, served the vast majority of these hours and are the reason the collection is so spectacularly maintained. These remarkable women volunteer twice a week for several hours and do not break their schedule even during the heat of the summer when they are most needed, as the frequent rains encourage the relentless growth of weeds. The enormous amount of work it takes to maintain the living collection is necessary to ensure the plants remain healthy and that the collection beds continue to serve as a repository for rare species conservation.

Photos provided by Whitney Costner, Conservation Biologist with the Rare Plant Conservation Program at Bok Tower Gardens.