Rare Plants, Heritage Trees Growing Anew in Armenia

© Armenia Tree Project
Nursery manager Samvel Ghandilyan with rare elderberry tigrani plants being propagated in Armenia's Karin village.

For almost two decades, the Armenia Tree Project has been helping people pull themselves out of poverty while greening the heavily deforested Caucasus country. Now, it is also working to rejuvenate populations of rare and endangered tree species, including heritage fruit trees that have been growing in the region for 3,000 years.

Loss Of Native Plants
Of the approximately 3,600 plant species in Armenia, 123 are endemic or found nowhere else on earth, according to the two-volume "Red Book of Plants and Animals of the Republic of Armenia" released last year by the country's Ministry of Nature Protection. Many, though, are becoming endangered due to deforestation, water mismanagement, and habitat destruction.

"In response to the concern over the loss of native plants, Armenia Tree Project has a policy of growing only indigenous trees in its three nurseries," according to the organization's nursery program manager, Samvel Ghandilyan. "Naturalized" trees introduced long ago are included in this policy if they have no negative impact on the local ecosystem and help boost food security by providing fruits and nuts.

Reintroducing Endangered Species
The group's nursery in the village of Karin is now specializing in the propagation of endangered species, including nine trees and shrubs that are registered as rare in the Red Book and two -- the alpine maple and the halfsphere rose -- that are in danger of extinction.

The Karin nursery and another in Khachpar are also starting to produce once-common varieties of apple, peach, pear, and apricot trees -- part of a economic, social, and cultural heritage that dates back three millennia -- that will be delivered to community planting sites around the country.

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Tags: Conservation | Deforestation | Fruits & Vegetables

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