Hope in the Future of Seeds Collected Today
BY CHRISTA HORN AND EVAN MEYER
Extinction is on the rise worldwide, but California is pushing back. Out of more than 6,000 native plant taxa, only 22 are presumed extinct — and California’s botanical institutions are determined to prevent any further extinction of the state’s native plants.
In 2014, California’s native plant leaders came together to form the California Plant Rescue (CaPR) under the auspices of the Center for Plant Conservation, a national organization providing guidelines and support for native plant species survival. The goal: collect and conserve the seeds of 75 percent of plants ranked rare, threatened, or endangered (CNPS Rare Plant Rank 1B) in the California Floristic Province by 2020. The 75 percent by 2020 target is one of 16 plant conservation targets set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
Thanks to the work of professionals and citizen scientists, the group is well on its way toward reaching its target, with more than 50 percent of 1B species now in collections. These collections preserve high levels of genetic diversity in botanic gardens and seed banks to safeguard populations against extinction. As progress advances, so too does support. California’s new Biodiversity Initiative, the statewide directive to preserve and protect biodiversity in the face of climate change, calls for increased funding to support the very efforts CaPR has well underway.
Efforts in action
The CaPR collaborating institutions partner with land managers, funders, and other organizations to complete their collections. They also gather data about wild populations, providing baseline information for future generations. The collected seeds become the focal point of integrated plant conservation strategies, connecting collections, horticultural practices, and species-specific research for plant conservation.
CaPR members collect and store seeds as an irreplaceable insurance policy against loss in the wild, ensuring our plants never go extinct. The seeds we collect provide the raw materials for population enhancement, restoration, and recovery, as well as opportunities for research. A seed has power. As ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan has said, “It contains a life spark that allows the regenerative process to happen. We need seeds because they are the physical manifestation of that concept that we call hope.”
CaPR’s collaborative spirit has allowed the group to set ambitious goals, involving hundreds of people across the state. This photo essay documents the day-to-day life of CaPR over the past three years, through the different stages of seed collection, processing, and conservation work. From monitoring populations to preparing seeds to add to our seed banks, these activities feature some of California’s most beautiful plants and places.
To learn more about CaPR and see a list of all CaPR participating organizations, please visit www.caplantrescue.org
Christa Horn and Evan Meyer are members of the CaPR team. Christa is a Plant Conservation Program Specialist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Evan is Assistant Director of the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at the University of California Los Angeles.