Mar 1, 2011

Endangered Plants

I was researching sources for a class project a few days ago when I came across this online advertisement that mentioned Bok Tower Gardens, so I thought I should check it out since I love exploring new places.
It is located on Iron Mountain which is the highest point in the Florida peninsula, on top of the Lake Wales Ridge, 298 feet above sea level. Coincidentallly, it is only an hour drive from where I live. You enter through a big gate where you pay, and then you are surrounded by these orange trees that smell so wonderful that makes you want to get out of your car, grab one and eat it right there.

So many orange trees...

Anyway, after a 2 minute drive you arrive at the Visitor Center where you can find brochures and info about the garden. There are quite a few things to see in this heavenly place that is full of flowers and life. There is the Singing Tower which houses the carillon (has 60 bronze bells and creates this poetic music that matches well with the gardens), the historic Pinewood Estate where Edward Bok (who was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author that built the gardens) lived with his family, Pine Ridge Trail that is a Longleaf Pine-Turkey Oak Habitat, and the most interesting part of it all the Endangered Plant Garden.
This is the Singing Tower.

The Endangered Plant Garden is a display garden of rare Florida native plants; the ones within the circular bed are all federally listed as being globally threatened or endangered. Note: endangered. Plants outside the circular bed are native grasses and wildflowers that grow in association with these rare species. Some of these plants are: Lakela's Mint, Apalachicola Rosemary, Etoniah Rosemary, and Scrub Plum. If anyone is interested, they also have Latin names like Condradina Etonia and Justicia Cooleyi.

This is one of the endangered plants in Florida

Another endangered plant.

The process of creating this Endangered Plant Garden works like this: The National Collection plants are housed in a network of participating institutions across the country. Live material from rare plants is collected from the wild and then maintained under controlled conditions within the network as seed, rooted cuttings, tissue culture, or mature plants. The staff maintains plants for the National Collection on site in the nursery and endangered plant beds. Here, at the Endangered Plant Program, conservation efforts to save endangered plants and their habitats from extinction include seed collection and long-term seed storage, monitoring, reintroduction of plants to the wild, research and education. Their research includes the study of  basic biology of endangered plants and genetics.Bok Tower Gardens has helped to conserve 38 rare Central and North Florida plant species, part of the National Collection of endangered and threatened plants. Of this collection, 29 are federally listed and 35 are state listed as endangered or threatened native flora.

There are many reasons for preserving endangered species and the habitats they live in. These plants provide clean air, water, food, shelter and energy; their existence is vital to the community of plants and also animals. They provide history about the land on which they live and the distinctiveness of Florida habitats.
We need to preserve the plant or the animal , as well as its habitat; the balance is essential to protect the ecosystem. While it is true that the loss of one species may not affect a natural community significantly, it does not necessarily follow that the loss of key or many species won't harm the ecosystem forever.

At the end of the day this road trip introduced me to endangered plants, their research and conservation here in Florida. It was amazing to see the ways we can try to preserve the ecosystem,starting with the endangered species. As Edward Bok once said, "Wherever your lives may be cast, make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." In other words, try to make the world that you live in a better place by doing good things like protecting the environment. One way we all can make our planet better is to help save rare species so that the future generations can understand their function and see their beauty.

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