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Past Issues Of Wildflower Magazine

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 - Winter 2004

Finally we have cooler temperatures in Austin, Texas, and as we approach what passes for winter here many of our staff and volunteers at the Wildflower Center are intently focused on developing a new vision and plan for invigorating our native plant visitor gardens.

Meanwhile, some of the Wildflower Center's most significant work continues in our plant conservation program and research facilities. Although less visible to the public than our native plant gardens, the work of our conservation staff is just as critical to achieving our vision of preserving and restoring the natural beauty and biological richness of North America.

We at the Wildflower Center take seriously our responsibility for caring for plants at risk of widespread loss or even extinction. As many as 5,000 of North America's native plant species -- about 25 percent of all native species - are at risk of becoming extinct. In Texas, more than 200 native plants are at risk and 28 of those are already officially listed as threatened and endangered. These plants become imperiled for a number of reasons, including their natural rarity, land development, invasive exotic species, over-harvesting, pollution, and even climate change.

Over the past 22 years, the Wildflower Center has become part of the national community of scientists, plant enthusiasts, conservationists, and citizens dedicated to expanding our understanding of important native plants and finding ways to ensure their continued existence in the natural environment and in our lives. We do this in the following ways:

  • As a member of the national Center for Plant Conservation the Wildflower Center is working to protect seven species of concern by collecting and storing seeds, conducting botanical research, and developing reintroduction programs into stable and restored habitats. Information gathered from a reproductive study of Texas wild rice by Center conservation botanists will help guide reintroduction efforts for this highly endangered species. The Center also has been asked to investigate the feasibility of establishing an on-site refugium for the rice, which we would use as a conservation exhibit to educate our visitors about endangered species and their value to the health of our planet.
  • In our third year of participation in the international Royal Botanic Garden, Kew-Millennium Seed Bank Project, the Center now is collecting seeds from more than 800 species in two major eco-regions in Texas, the Edwards Plateau and Blackland Prairie. Our seed bank also stores seed collections from other common, rare, and endangered species across the state.
  • In the past year, we have focused on bringing scientists and decision makers together to develop an integrated plant conservation action plan for Texas. Ultimately this will provide an inventory of all rare and endangered plants and help identify the steps necessary to protect those plants and the ecosystems in which they live. An on-line database at www.wildflower.org will serve as a clearinghouse for critical information about the plan.
  • We are working to improve the region's response to the problems created by non-native, invasive plants. The Wildflower Center is working with the Texas Forest Service to develop invasive plant educational materials for the public and to develop technologies for the identification, control, and management of invasive non-native species.

While extensive, the Wildflower Center's work represents only a small part of the total effort needed to protect native plants and plant communities. Even as we learn more about the perils facing many of our native plants and landscapes, fewer dollars and less attention nationwide are being dedicated to plant conservation. That trend must be reversed if we are to preserve the miraculous plant heritage that sustains us ecologically, economically, and spiritually.

Susan Rieff

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