The U.S. Botanic Garden collaborates with other public gardens, federal and municipal agencies, and nonprofit organizations to achieve shared goals through projects that have wide-reaching impacts. These partnerships range from U.S. native orchid and food plant research and conservation to urban agriculture training for veterans and toolkits for school greenhouses and gardens.
Conservation Assessment of U.S. Native Trees
Working with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) Global Tree Assessment, the USBG has collaborated with BGCI-US, the Morton Arboretum, and NatureServe to complete conservation assessments of 188 U.S. native tree species, while developing a crosswalk tool that reciprocally translates the IUCN Red List and NatureServe’s G-ranking systems.
Oak Tree Conservation
The USBG is collaborating to protect five of the most threatened U.S. native oak species, all located in southwest Texas. Working with the Morton Arboretum and the Global Conservation Consortium for Oak (GCCO), the project is guided by the Conservation Gap Analysis of Native U.S. Oaks. Additionally, the Garden is actively involved in the GCCO Eastern Region group that is helping set priorities for oak conservation in our area.
Related news: Researchers find oak tree believed to be extinct
Endangered Plants Only Known From A Single Site
The USBG is partnering with NatureServe to assess the conservation status of the approximately 250 single-site endemics. The assessments include evaluating the threats to the species’ survival and developing strategies to conserve them.
Conserving Native U.S. Grapes (Vitis species)
USBG is facilitating the completion of Vitis conservation assessments and a meeting of grape experts to develop a conservation strategy for the genus. The Vitis project, in collaboration with NatureServe, will be a model for other crop wild relatives and help develop a road map for future conservation assessments and strategies.
Native Fruit and Nut Tree Crop Wild Relatives
USBG is working with Botanic Gardens Conservation International-U.S., San Diego Botanic Garden, and Missouri Botanical Garden to generate conservation assessments, road maps, and working groups for crop wild relatives of U.S. native, temperate fruit and nut trees. This project builds on a previous assessment of the capacity of botanic gardens to conserve crop wild relatives.
Global Genome Initiative for Gardens
In collaboration with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), BGCI-US, and the Global Genome Initiative for Gardens (GGI-Gardens), the USBG supported awards for 16 U.S. and international botanic gardens to collect and contribute additional species vouchers and tissue samples for the GGI-Gardens project. This project aims to preserve a majority of the world’s plant genera in herbaria and tissue banks so that they are available for future research. Additionally, the USBG assisted in the collection of herbarium voucher specimens and genome-quality tissue of 460 species of vascular plants in USBG’s living collections. This collaboration resulted in a publication about the efforts of the project and a publication that released DNA barcodes of plants from the USBG living collection.
Developing a Crop Wild Relative Roadmap
In collaboration with American Public Gardens Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the USBG helped develop a symposium to draft a Road Map for North American Crop Wild Relatives for conservation and understanding of crop wild relatives and useful wild plants. The symposium findings were published in a special issue of Crop Science.
North American Orchid Conservation
The USBG partnered with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Smithsonian Gardens to create the North American Orchid Conservation Center to understand and conserve the 220+ orchid species native to the U.S. and Canada. The NAOCC collaboration has produced a variety of conservation and educational products including the Go Orchids website and Orchid-gami.
Sourcing Native Plants and Their Cultivars
This multi-year project with Mt. Cuba Center and a team of experts evaluated issues involved in sourcing and utilizing native plants and their cultivars in projects ranging from ecological restoration to home gardening. For more information visit the project’s website and read a resulting peer-reviewed paper “Sourcing native plants to support ecosystem function in different planting contexts.”
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
USBG serves as a CITES plant rescue center under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. CITES protects rare and endangered plants by seizing such plants that are being illegally internationally trafficked. The majority of USBG CITES plants include orchid and succulent plant seizures.
Plant Collecting Collaborative
A cooperative agreement with Chicago Botanic Garden has facilitated the USBG’s participation in the Plant Collecting Collaborative, a group of public gardens engaged in cultivating plants collected in the wild. The plants collected on the collaborative’s field trips will help diversify and improve the conservation value of the USBG living collection. Members of the Garden’s Horticulture team have participated in collecting trips to central Texas and Hokkaido, Japan.
Public Gardens Database Improvements
The USBG works with BGCI and BGCI-US to implement improvements to BGCI the Plant Search and Garden Search databases to allow easier access to collections and garden information, facilitate collaborations, and increase conservation capacity. Conservation projects enhanced by these database improvements include efforts to ensure plants extinct in the wild are represented in multiple gardens’ living collections; the Plant Conservation Benchmarking, a tool created in collaboration with APGA, BGCI, and conservation science departments at gardens across the U.S. to develop a conservation benchmarking tool; and working to ensure duplicative collections of species that are extinct in the wild
North American Collections Assessment
Working with BGCI and the Arnold Arboretum, this publication of the North American Collections Conservation Assessment utilized a consolidated list of threatened plants in North America and compared it with North American collections information maintained in BGCI’s PlantSearch database. These results are a critical step in helping the botanical community prioritize the development of ex situ conservation collections for threatened taxa not yet in genetically diverse and representative collections
Conserving North America’s Threatened Plants
Following a similar European model, this Report on Conserving North America’s Threatened Plants highlights the unique role of botanic gardens for ex situ conservation, made more powerful by their ability to incorporate research and education into integrated conservation programs. North America’s wealth of plant diversity is increasingly threatened by habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change. While the in situ preservation of this diversity is the fundamental goal of plant conservation, the crucial and complementary role that ex situ conservation plays cannot be overstated. Botanic gardens possess a unique capacity for ex situ conservation, made more powerful by their ability to incorporate research and education into integrated conservation programs. The work of botanic gardens, and the work of plant conservation organizations around the world, is helping to ensure long-term species survival in the wild.
Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA)
USBG is an active member of this consortium of federal and non-federal partners active in plant conservation in the U.S, including having assisted in the development of the National Seed Strategy and the follow-up progress evaluation.
USBG Conservatory Green Roof Research
This collaboration with Professor Dr. John Lea Cox from the University of Maryland is evaluating the performance of native plant species versus typical sedum plantings on the green roof of the USBG Conservatory. The project is gathering data on the plant communities’ water needs and their performance and capacity to retain water that would otherwise enter D.C.’s combined sewer system.
Collected plant material and conducted ex situ propagation of Philippine species of the parasitic plant Rafflesia and its host plant Tetrastigma, in collaboration with Assistant Professor Dr. Jeanmaire (‘Jean’) Molina at Long Island University.
This project has resulted directly in scientific publications about what we’ve learned from our cultivation attempts, the metabolics of Rafflesia infection, and indirectly in another that published a new species of Amorphophallus that was collected on one of the project’s field trips.
- The seed transcriptome of Rafflesia reveals horizontal gene transfer and convergent evolution: Implications for conserving the world's largest flower, Plants, People, Planet
- Ex Situ Propagation of Philippine Rafflesia in the United States: Challenges and Prospects, Sibbaldia
Training and Education:
Urban Agriculture Training
A collaboration with Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest has had several outcomes, including on-site and virtual training of 38 individuals and organizations to expand capacity in urban agriculture work. Additionally, an Urban Agriculture Toolkit has been developed and distributed. This toolkit is designed to support public gardens and other organizations interested in initiating, expanding, or adapting current urban agriculture programs.
Urban Agriculture Training for Veterans
Development of "Armed to Urban Farm" with National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), focusing on training veterans interested in urban agriculture. More than 80 veterans have participated to date, with additional training programs in development.
Greenhouse Manual for Educators
This Greenhouse Manual for Educators is an introductory manual for educators wanting to better use new or existing greenhouses for programming. Developed as a collaboration between City Blossoms, NCAT, Office of the State Superintendent of Education-D.C. (OSSE), and USBG.
School Garden Guide for D.C. Area
The USBG facilitated collaborative work with City Blossoms and D.C. OSSE to develop a D.C. Region School Garden Guide. This guide is intended for a broad audience including teachers, school administrators, community-based organization staff, community members, and parents. It provides guidance for establishing a new school garden, maintaining an existing school garden, or using the school garden for instruction.
Youth Entrepreneurship Manual
This manual, in collaboration with City Blossom based on their Mighty Greens program, provides templates and tools to support anyone interested in connecting high school youth with gardens and entrepreneurship skill-building.
Annual Botanical Symposium
The USBG partners with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Botany Department to co-present a botanical symposium each May.
Flora of North America
The USBG supported enhancements to the Flora of North America website such as improved keys to identification and better species pages (including published illustrations, distribution maps, and additional resources). This helps ensure the wealth of floristic information is better accessible to the public.
Previous Collaborations and Products:
Public Gardens and Agriculture:
An evaluation of the role of public gardens in agriculture with Tri Societies (American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America) resulted in a scientific publication and a white paper on the role of public gardens in agriculture that was shared with the U.S. Congress, other botanic gardens, and the public.
Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank
USBG assisted in the funding and development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARS-B) through a collaboration between Plant Conservation Alliance, NYBG, NYC Parks Greenbelt Native Plant Center
Sustainable SITES Initiative
The Sustainable SITES Initiative is a comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes, measure their performance and elevate their value. SITES certification is for development projects located on sites with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes to homes, and more. As a counterpart to LEED building certification, SITES is now administered by the Green Business Certification, Inc.
The original SITES program was created as an interdisciplinary partnership led by the United States Botanic Garden, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin.
U.S. Progress report on Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
This Progress report details the U.S. progress in meeting the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation’s Target 8 goal that 75% of threatened species will be conserved ex-situ by 2020.
Please see www.USBG.gov/UrbanAgriculture for more on these partnerships and activities.
Urban Agriculture Resilience Program
The Urban Agriculture Resilience Program (UARP) has provided assistance to 49 gardens and their partners to continue critical food growing, access, and education during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is a collaboration between USBG and American Public Gardens Association.
Research Projects Using USBG Plants
USBG shares plant material and germplasm for research projects, including these recent projects. Contact us to inquire about using our plants for research.
- Provided leaf samples for a Coccoloba phylogeny project by Dr. Daniel Koenmann at Howard University.
- Hosted site visits and offered cuttings and other plant materials such as pollen, flowers, seeds, and whole plants for projects involving Brighamia insignis, Amorphophallus titanum, and more.
Coming soon: a list of published scientific articles.