A Plant Conservation Checklist for Gardeners
Know the conservation status of the plant species you choose to grow.
A large number of plants that are threatened in the wild are sold in the nursery trade. By knowing which they are, you can act to preserve them by being a careful consumer, instead of unwittingly contributing to their demise.
Know the laws that protect wild plants and how they affect you.
A permit is required to obtain from abroad or from overseas suppliers any plant protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Local and national laws including the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act also regulate the sale of threatened plants.
To help protect wild plant populations, think conservation when buying plants, bulbs, and other plant materials.
Never buy a plant that has been illegally dug up from the wild. Plants most likely to be wild collected are orchids, cacti and succulents, bulbs, carnivorous plants, cycads, and native wildflowers. Look for plant labels that say "nursery propagated" or "from cultivated stock." (Beware ambiguous wording such as "nursery grown," which may mean that a plant has been stolen from the wild, then grown on in a nursery.) If a plant’s origin is unclear, question the vendor; when in doubt, do not buy. Even better, give your business to sources who actively work to conserve threatened plants.
When possible, purchase plants that have been propagated sexually, by seed, to help maintain the genetic health of threatened plants.
Many plants in the nursery trade are clones propagated in ways that eliminate genetic variation. The survival of most threatened plants is best served when they are grown from seed. Before buying them, ask how the plants have been propagated.
Be as diligent about documenting the origins of any threatened plants in your garden or greenhouse as you are about growing them.
Some orchids and cycads, for example, are so critically endangered that plants in private hands may be an important stockpile of germplasm for future conservation efforts. A detailed record of their provenance, or origin, increases the conservation value of the threatened plants you grow. Conservation-minded suppliers of seed or plants can provide such information.
Make your garden a refuge for native wildflowers and wildlife.
By using native species in plantings modeled after local plant communities such as forests or prairies, you can do your part to compensate for the loss and fragmentation of habitat, and nurture birds, butterflies, and other pollinators and seed dispersers. And don't forget — to avoid threatening plants indirectly by damaging their pollinators and native habitats, don't use toxic pesticides, don't overfertilize, and choose plants to minimize water use.
Never grow plants that are invasive or potentially invasive.
Invasive plants spread out of control in the wild, threatening native plants and animals. Many common garden plants can become invasive. Remove these plants from your garden. The best way to avoid introducing a new invasive plant is to select trees, shrubs, and wildflowers native to your area.
Make the most of your green thumb — volunteer to assist conservation work at a botanic garden or other group.
From propagating threatened species to removing invasive plants, the amount of work required to save the estimated 100,000 imperiled plants worldwide is staggering. Botanic gardens and other groups rely on volunteers to help get the work done. Visit BGCI.org to find botanic gardens near you.
Support local, national, and international plant conservation efforts.
Become a member of botanic gardens and other groups involved in plant conservation and habitat preservation. Let government officials know plant conservation is important to you.
Be an ecotourist — support sustainable use of plants when you travel.
Ecotourism is travel to natural areas that contributes to the protection of critical habitat and sustains local communities. Choices range from small-scale tours to huge resorts.
Plant for the Planet — helping the gardening community better understand the threats to plants and their role in saving them.