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Saving Plants in Peril!

Texas Trailing Phlox

The Texas trailing phlox is just one of more than 30 endangered plant species maintained by Mercer.

The word endangered is often used to refer to wildlife in danger of extinction. But plants also suffer from situations that dwindle the wildlife population.

Loss of habitat, introduction of foreign species, and over-collection are just a few of the threats to the nation’s 20,000 native plant species. Already, more than 200 species have become extinct and over 730 species are federally listed as endangered or threatened. Loss of native plant species weakens the natural ecosystem and depletes an irreplaceable gene pool that may hold the cures for diseases, such as certain forms of cancer.

Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens plays a unique role in saving dwindling plant populations. Mercer works with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), and is the only botanic garden in the upper Gulf Coast region certified to care for the CPC’s national collection of endangered plants. In addition, Mercer maintains species from other botanic facilities such as the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Massachusetts; Historic Bok Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida; and the San Antonio Botanic Gardens.

"Restoring the population of a single plant species is a long-term commitment and a big job!" says Dr. Kathryn Kennedy, CPC president and executive director. From collecting endangered seeds in the wild to carefully cultivating and restoring a plant’s gene pool, the process is exacting and costly. Costs include items like field equipment, travel costs, seed cleaning, packaging supplies, and horticultural supplies.

Although Mercer receives annual maintenance funds from the CPC to support plant restoration activities of several species, it is still in need of additional funding to care for additional CPC-endangered plants. Depending on the level of sponsorship, gifts include framed color prints, T-shirts, note cards, and other gifts featuring a sponsored plant. Sponsors are acknowledged in Precinct 4 publications and events referencing their species, honored on plaques at Mercer, and featured on Mercer’s Web site. Sponsorship donations range from $200 to $10,000 for a full sponsorship of a single endangered species.

To view endangered plants in need of sponsorship, please click here.

Anita A. Tiller, Botanist
Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens
Adapted from Parkscape, Spring 2003