Plant Conservation Program at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia: Five Areas of Impact
There are five program areas within Research and Conservation at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG). In addition to our permanent staff, University students, members of the local community, and our statewide audience share in our work and apply the knowledge they gain to managing landscapes and natural habitats across Georgia.
Rare and Endangered Species Conservation
Collecting and storing seeds of rare species is an important conservation strategy, but it is even more critical to understand how to grow and propagate them. Our conservation staff develops horticultural protocols for Georgia’s imperiled plants, augmenting natural populations when appropriate and establishing cultivated populations as a safety net. Much of our work takes place within the context of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, a statewide network of conservation professionals that the Plant Conservation Program has coordinated since its inception in 1995. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is an active member of the national Center for Plant Conservation and the international network Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
Native Plant Production
We have a long-term research and service commitment to make locally collected ecotypes of native plants more available in the commercial trade. In addition to developing supplies of high quality seed, we share knowledge with gardeners, landscapers, natural resource agencies and professional growers concerning efficient propagation and production protocols for native plants. In 2006, we launched a statewide collaboration to increase the use of native plants in all areas of gardening and ecological restoration. The Georgia Native Plant Initiative has been promoting individual growers, connecting buyers, sharing production techniques, and teaching how natives can be incorporated in all projects from mailbox gardens to highway and utility rights-of-way.
Habitat Restoration Techniques and Training
Visitors to the State Botanical Garden have the opportunity to see two habitat restoration projects in action — removal of invasive species from the understory of our floodplain forest, and development of a Piedmont prairie along a power line right-of-way. Both projects involve propagating native species in our nursery and establishing them on the restoration sites to encourage habitat recovery. The management techniques and native plant biodiversity strategies we develop are being shared with landowners and land managers across the state.
University Instruction and Interns
One of the priceless advantages we enjoy as a unit of the University of Georgia is our ability to engage undergraduate and graduate students in our activities. We benefit from their enthusiasm and creativity, and they are introduced to conservation science and public horticulture as possible career paths. Stepping into the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies immerses them in the day-to-day excitement and discovery of saving our native plants! “Conserving Native Plants” is a three-credit undergraduate service course that introduces students to fundamental concepts of restoration ecology and conservation horticulture. Students in the class work side-by-side with SBG staff and develop an appreciation of public gardens and plant conservation as possible career paths.
Community Outreach and Engagement
Our Conservation Program relies on volunteers to carry out its mission. The incredibly dedicated people of all ages who pot-up plants, pull weeds and harvest seed at the Garden’s Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies are helping to create new sources of plant material and conservation strategies that are benefiting people and habitats throughout the Southeast. Our Connect-to-Protect public service outreach program reaches across the state to promote the biodiversity of native plants and pollinators in Georgia. Pollinators play a crucial role in a healthy functioning ecosystem and provide humans with ecological services such as food and seed production. Connect-to-Protect encourages the creation of beautiful displays of locally appropriate plants to supply these insects with a source of food as well as sites to breed. The goal of this collaborative project is to provide the public with information and resources for installing pollinator-friendly native plant gardens on small and large scales alike!