The International
Plant Exploration

Plants from Southeast Asia have always been a component of the Garden’s collections. The mission of the International Plant Exploration Program is to collaborate with International Gardens and Institutions to help preserve and evaluate new species for use in southeastern landscapes.

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The Atlanta Botanical Garden established IPEP in 2016 to construct a plant evaluation nursery, make formal seed-collecting trips to Southeast Asia and launch a visiting scholar program. Other program goals include:

  • Preserve and disseminate the germplasm of plants from southeast Asia in the United States through seed and seedling distribution with appropriate botanical institutions.
  • Establish a program to evaluate new species from Southeast Asia for use in southeastern landscapes.
  • Create networks between the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the University of Georgia and botanical institutions in Southeast Asia. These are initial steps in developing plant propagation programs for future conservation efforts of these threatened floras.
  • Source new germplasm for plant breeding efforts in the United States.


Trip Report: China and Vietnam, 2019

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Trip Report: China, Fall 2018

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Trip Report: Vietnam, Spring 2018

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Trip Report: India and China, Fall 2017

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Trip Report: China and Vietnam, Spring 2017

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Trip Report: China, Fall 2016

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Trip Report: Vietnam, Spring 2016

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Trip Report: India, Spring 2015

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Program Accomplishments

Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden

Working together, Atlanta Botanical Garden and Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden have made multiple field trips to Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hubei and Hunan provinces to study the rare flora of Southeast China. Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden also sent over the first two visiting scholars to IPEP in the summer of 2018.

Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology

While the memorandum of understanding between the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources Department of Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and Atlanta Botanical Garden was only signed in 2018, the working relationship between the two institutions began nearly 20 years ago. During this time, many field trips have been made to Lai Chau, Lau Cai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang and Lam Dong provinces studying the flora still hidden in the remote limestone forests of Vietnam. 

Sixteen years of field study in the northern provinces and central highlands of Vietnam with researchers from VAST has generated 14 trips to the field resulting in at least seven new plant species and well over a dozen “new records” for Vietnam. Not only do these field trips broaden our understanding of the diversity left in the remote areas of Vietnam, it is a remarkably practical training tool for researchers at both VAST and Atlanta Botanical Garden to study these plants and their communities in situ.

Located just outside of Hanoi, IPEP has made both knowledge and financial contributions toward the development of VAST’s newly renovated 175 hectare biodiversity station. This property is a repository for genetics and serves as the central location for studying living specimens of some of the rarest and most threatened plants in Vietnam.

Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology & Longwood Gardens

With the hopes to soon begin publishing previously undocumented threatened Orchid and Magnolia species, IPEP collaborates in situ with VAST and Longwood Gardens and uses their data to update the Flora of Vietnam to reflect many new discoveries.

Visiting Scholars

IPEP has hosted visiting scholars from partner institutions in China and Vietnam. Good, practical horticulture training is a must for building collections and working to conserve threatened plant species. During this time, our guests are exposed to all facets of horticulture at Atlanta Botanical Garden’s midtown and Gainesville locations, ranging from greenhouse growing techniques and soil recipes for propagation to container growing and the production of plants for planting and distribution. 

Meet the Team:
Scott McMahan

As the Manager of International Plant Exploration Program, Scott oversees the plant collection and evaluation nursery at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. He was previously the propagator for a large wholesale grower, as well as the nursery manager at the Garden for several years before opening his first nursery. Scott returned to the Garden as the IPEP manager in 2016. His focus is promoting the exchange of knowledge and plants with other botanical institutions around the world. He’s made more than 30 overseas scouting and collecting trips for the Garden, including to China, Vietnam, India, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan and Mexico.

Meet the Team:
Timothy Marchlik

Tim is the International Plant Exploration Program Nursery Assistant. He is responsible for the maintenance of the Gainesville Evaluation Nursery, propagation of the plants and joins Scott in domestic and international fieldwork. Tim received his bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before joining the Plant Exploration Program, Tim was an Assistant Horticulturist at the Garden. His goals include evaluating new plants for hardiness, ornamental value, and invasive and propagation potential.

Give to the Plant Exploration Program