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.
Letter from the Director - Spring 2014
Photo by Marsha Miller.
AT THE WILDFLOWER CENTER, when we consider taking on any new initiative, we always ask whether doing so furthers our mission to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.
Knowing that land development of all sizes and scales is the primary threat to native species, we dedicate much of our work to helping make planned landscapes more ecologically sustainable, in large part by using native plants.
For instance, in May when we open the 4.5-acre Luci and Ian Family Garden, visitors will find it to be a model of sustainable land design – emphasizing the use of beautiful native flowers and trees, local and natural materials, and practices designed to conserve water and nourish healthy soils.
We are also focused on a second major threat to our native plants and wildflowers: competition from harmful invasive species such as giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) and zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). Besides their often-devastating ecological impacts, invasive species cost the U.S. economy $143 billion each year.
The Center's primary efforts to address the problem of invasive plants achieved an important milestone in February, when we trained our 2,000th citizen-scientist in the Invaders of Texas program.
In 2005, we helped form a statewide council to combat invasive species, bringing together nonprofit groups, universities, government agencies and others. All agreed that documenting the occurrence and spread of these plants – and disseminating that information – was key to developing strategies for controlling them. And we knew that job would require more hands in the field than we could supply alone.
Since then, we have have trained volunteers at statewide workshops as well as through online tools. They are then enlisted to identify occurrences of Texas' most destructive invasive species, document their locations and add this information to the statewide database on www.texasinvasives.org.
Collectively, these skilled and committed Texans have contributed some 5,000 hours of their time, and they join the ranks of thousands like them across the country who are gathering critical data for conservation initiatives. Citizen-scientists are tracking migratory birds for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; others are helping pinpoint when native plants are leafing out in spring as part of understanding the impact of climate change on plants.
You can read about the Invaders of Texas program on pages 5 and 6 of this issue. Another article on page 30 describes how the Center's conservation staff is teaching groups across the state how to collect and store seeds to provide a hedge against plant extinction and as a source material for restoration of damaged plant communities.
"It's something anyone can do with the right training," Conservation Program Manager Karen Clary says. "And these volunteers are the key to our being able to collect and process seed in the quantities we need to make a difference."
Spring seems a particularly good time to celebrate this kind of hands-on conservation. We are inspired every day by the enthusiasm of all of our conservation volunteers, and we are grateful for their willingness to devote their time to the labor-intensive work of conserving our native plants and our natural heritage.
— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director