Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Your Program Will Be Deleted

After studying the interconnections between plants and fungi, I'm even more disturbed about the rate of extinctions happening on our little planet. I feel like parts of our bioprogram are being deleted at such a high rate of speed, most people don't even notice it.  Who remembers Cyanea dolichopoda, the Hawaiian haha? Seems to me if we keep deleting at our current rate, our program will be deleted, too!

I'm reminded of the Star Trek Next Generation episode, "Remember Me", when Dr. Crusher gets caught in a warp bubble anomaly, and people and things keep disappearing from the ship, until she's alone. The episode came out in 1990, just before that Cyanea disappeared, come to think of it....Dr. Crusher's isolation is where we may be going: The Age of Alone....
Plants are getting caught in the pincers of genetic alteration for trademarked corporate profit, and habitat loss from climate change and our ever-surging population. Lush scenes like this (Fairchild Tropical Gardens) have already disappeared from many people's lives....
But there are some bright spots. The Seed Savers Exchange in the US makes me happy, because for about 40 years, people who care have been harvesting, banking, and exchanging seeds of just about every heirloom plant you could think of. Many varieties are still around, instead of deleted, because ordinary people have cared enough to keep them.


Universities are getting into the plant repository business in record numbers, but I'm a little suspicious of some of that activity, given that many universities have strong ties to corporations that genetically manipulate a species, then make it patented and sterile to boot. Not impressive.

Many plant societies are concentrating on preserving species. Several cactus and succulent societies around the world have extensive seed banks and make some available for sale and exchange. Considering how vulnerable many succulent species are, living in tiny niches, that makes me happy. I want today's kids to enjoy the same wonderful plants that I grow and love.
What plant-saving projects have you seen, or participated in, in your part of the world?


  1. Marla, thank you for having the guts to write about this important topic! My nursery business (Olympic Orchids) partners with a conservation-oriented orchid flasking initiative whose goal is to preserve as many orchid species as possible from all over the world, encouraging genetic diversity through outcrosses. I sell mainly orchid species, and hope that collectors will help preserve these amazing plants as they do heirloom plants of all types. I'm afraid that some of the species that we grow are extinct or near-extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction.

    Recently I've gotten into growing species cacti and succulents from seeds, and have to say that these little plants are every bit as amazing as orchids.

    1. Forgive the pun, but preservation of so many of these rare and wonderful species has become very much a grass-roots effort! It is very good to see so many ordinary folk caring for so many plants. Now if we can get the climate under control....

  2. My only plant saving project right now revolves around trying to make sure that our city enforces its own tree preservation ordinances and cutting permits. They tend to ignore the clear cutting practices of land developers and housing contractors. After pointing out a few of these "just rip everything out of the ground" contractors I think the city realized that by enforcing their own ordinances they could actually "capture" lots of funds. I don't really think they care about the trees or the eco-systems that are being destroyed. If they did care many of these building permits would not be issued in the first place.

    I remember the book VANISHING FLORA by Dugold Stermer. There is also Roman Kaiser's more recent THE SCENT OF VANISHING FLORA. With every extinction we lose so much more than most of us could ever imagine.

    1. "Just rip everything out of the ground" is an infuriating and unsustainable practice. And it makes things so ugly and dull. I'll check out the books you suggest, thanks!