Preserving horticultural heritage: planned distribution of plant collections from public horticulture institutions

Kerr, Lindsey K.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Delaware
Public gardens are important cultural institutions that often hold collections of our horticultural heritage, including plant cultivars that represent both our history and important genetic material. This study examined public horticulture institutions that curate and preserve the genetic material of cultivated ornamental plants. Institutions keeping germplasm were identified and data was collected using online surveys and interviews. Results indicated that relatively few institutions have in place programs to preserve plants and still fewer have duplicates of genetic material. Alarmingly, if the collections of cultivated plants are destroyed through disaster, the cultivars may become extinct and their genetic traits forever lost. Research was conducted to determine if protocols existed at North American horticultural institutions that enable the distribution or dispersal of cultivated plants to other gardens, cultural sites, and other non-profit organizations. Surveys and interviews of staff at historic sites, museums, and other non-profits, were conducted in order to determine what they need in order to feel comfortable receiving plants from a public garden as part of a long-term plant dispersal and partnership program. The research led to the development of recommendations that will facilitate the distribution of herbaceous plant material among gardens and non-profit institutions. These recommendations may help guide the creation of program to foster collaboration between botanical gardens and cultural institutions in the name of preserving ornamental flora.