The primary focus of the Garden's Conservation Program is the monitoring, restoration and conservation of unique, species-rich bog communities. Since its inception, the program has expanded to include work with 124 native plant species (22 are federally protected) throughout the Coastal Plain and southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern United States.
In the battle to save endangered species from extinction, habitat restoration is one of the most important weapons. The right growing conditions must be maintained, or, in some cases, re-created to allow for increased viability and health of plant populations.
The Garden's nature conservation program has developed simple, hands-on techniques for restoring natural habitats, in particular, bog habitats. Managing sites with a combination of prescribed burning and hand-cutting is essential to controlling the growth of woody plants and to maintaining an open, herbaceous plant community.
The Garden is working in partnership with the Five Star Restoration Program to save three rare wetland plants and restore their native habitat: Tennessee yellow-eyed grass (Xyris tennesseensis), Gerogia alder (Alnus maritima subsp. gerogiensis), and Virginia spirae (Spiraea virginiana).
Torreya taxifolia, commonly known as the Florida Torreya, is a rare and critically endangered species found in the Southeastern United States, at the state border region of northern Florida, and southwestern Georgia. Torreya is an evergreen tree that may reach heights of up to 15 to 20 meters. The trees are conical in overall shape, with whorled branches and stiff sharp pointed, needle-like leaves. The leaves and cones have a strongly pungent resinous odor when crushed, leading to its popular names "Stinking Yew" and "Stinking Cedar". The Garden’s Torreya taxifolia collection is nationally recognized. The Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) awarded sponsorship to the Garden for Torreya taxifolia in 2010. The Garden’s continued dedication and efforts to protect the endangered Torreya taxifolia, which began more than 20 years ago, furthers understanding of its ecology and life cycle as well as the decline of this once majestic species.
The conservation nursery at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville directly enhances this conservation effort. The sponsorship level designation nationally acknowledges the outstanding work that the Garden is accomplishing by maintaining and propagating one of the world’s critically endangered plants.
Conserving the Pollinators
One of the broader impacts of conserving plants at the Garden is preserving habitats for rare animal species, including pollinators. Insects are one of the most important groups of pollinators in the Southeast. Visitors can observe a busy hive of honeybees in action in the Children’s Garden. The Garden is partnering with the Butterfly Conservation Initiative and the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership to address native pollinator conservation.
Butterflies are just one group of insects in need of additional research and conservation, and late summer is an ideal time at the Garden to observe them. As visitors walk the paths they will observe a flight of vibrant color above the blooming plant displays from butterflies such as Papilionidae (Tiger Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail), Pieridae (Orange Sulphur, Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, Cabbage White), Lycaenidae(Red-banded hairstreak), Nymphalidae (Common Buckeye, Gulf Fritillary, Variegated Fritillary), and Hesperiidae (Common Checkered Skipper, Horace’s Duskywing, Silverspotted Skipper, Clouded Skipper).
As a charter member of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA), an umbrella organization dedicated to harnessing horticultural advances in the name of conservation, the Garden has been instrumental in developing many of the horticultural techniques for rare plant propagation and restoration that have been applied in GPCA field projects.
In addition to the GPCA, the Garden is currently cooperating with the following conservation organizations to preserve and restore threatened plant communities in the Southeast:
What Can You Do?
Through propagation, out-planting, management and safeguarding, the Garden plays an active role in insuring the long-term survival of many rare and endangered plant species.
Donations to the Garden support the protection and restoration of threatened plant communities throughout the Southeast.