Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Our national Volunteer Appreciation Week has come around again – April 18-24 – and reminds me how much the Wildflower Center owes to its 480 magnificent volunteers.
We calculated that in our last fiscal year, our volunteers contributed 28,000 hours of labor, saving us the equivalent of $500,000 in operating expenses. That is half a million dollars we did not have to raise through admissions, store sales, membership fees or contributions – a huge benefit during these challenging economic times.
Our volunteers plant, weed and maintain our gardens. They propagate and nurture plants in our greenhouses. They assist customers and stock the store. They take incredible photographs and assist Mr. Smarty Plants in answering questions from gardeners. They provide critical service during our signature events – the plant sales, Nature Nights, Goblins in the Garden and Luminations. Most often, it’s our volunteers who carry your plants to the car, teach children how to do crafts and set out the luminarias. Our docents take an eight-week course that prepares them to lead tours, welcome guests to the Visitors Gallery and give presentations about the Center.
We say it often. We mean it. We could not open the gate without our volunteers’ talent and commitment.
And there is more. This issue’s article “Citizens’ Call to Service” focuses on another critical aspect of volunteerism – the citizen scientists. These specially trained volunteers have become vital players in the environmental research and plant conservation projects that make us a national leader. If we had to rely on paid staff, we could not take on ambitious projects like the Millennium Seed Bank, for which we have now collected 10,000 to 20,000 seeds for each of more than 590 Texas native species safeguarded at England’s Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.
Without these volunteers, we could not carry on extensive long-term research like our Hill Country ecology project, which measures the impact of various prescribed burns and mowing regimens on vegetation over time. These projects require meticulous analysis and reports on the plots under observation.
Our citizen scientists have made it possible for us to post more than 8,000 reports of invasive plants all over Texas. Their work is helping researchers map the spread and concentration of these harmful species.
A corps of more than 850 volunteers is pitching in the sweat equity – and considerable skills – that all of these projects require toward conserving our native plants and landscapes. Along with the volunteers who make our gardens grow and tend to our visitors, they are the unsung heroes in all the work we do. Because of them, we have been able to create a highly successful model for leveraging our resources. The Wildflower Center did not invent the citizen-scientist concept, but we have become experts in putting it to work.
So to all our volunteers, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you. — Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director