Turn Your Garden Into a Refuge for Rare and Endangered Plants

Gardeners can help conserve species by propagating certain species at home.

young man repotting a plant

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Gardening in a sustainable way allows us to meet many of our own needs. But it can do far more than just that. In our eco-friendly gardens, we have the power to become part of the solution for much bigger global problems. 

One of the biggest problems we are currently facing is mass species extinction and the staggering loss of biodiversity that human society and Anthropocene-induced climate change brings. Many plants, as well as animals, are critically endangered. And as gardeners, it is interesting to note that we can potentially play a role in ensuring the future of plant species in our areas by growing them in our gardens.

One in five of the world's plants are at risk of extinction—over 4,000 in the United States alone. New research from Conservation Biology shows that more than triple the number of plants is extinct in the U.S. and Canada than previously thought. Seven of the 65 plants listed in this study are only now present in collections in botanical gardens. Without dedicated growers cultivating these plants, they would be entirely extinct. 

Growing and Propagating Endangered Native Species

Growing rare and endangered plants is not the best option for beginners, but gardeners with extensive horticultural experience under their belts could help conserve species by growing and propagating certain suitable species at home. This is an extremely worthwhile way to help fight biodiversity losses and protect native plants in your area.

Horticulture for endangered species involves careful experimentation and management, as well as excellent documentation of findings. It is a specialist subject which does require adherence to strict guidelines in order to be of help. But if you are a passionate gardener, perhaps you can contribute to plant conservation and plant science in this way.

If you are an experienced master gardener looking for a new passion project, starting a conservation garden could be your next move. There is a fascinating world in plant conservation awaiting you, should you choose to go down that path. 

Sponsoring Plant Conservation

The Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) has a Rare Plant Finder tool, which, if you live in the U.S., can be used to find out which plants in your area are at risk and which have conservationists working to safeguard their continued existence.

Even if you cannot grow rare or endangered plants on your own property, you can still support others in the conservation work that they are doing. In the U.S., you might sponsor a rare plant in your area through the CPC.

Growing Native Plants, Creating Native Habitats

Even if you cannot grow and preserve particularly rare and endangered native plants, you can still provide the habitats and environmental conditions which can allow native plants to thrive. Creating native plant gardens, particularly those which provide key ecological niches, can help to maintain biodiversity and return plant-richness to our communities. 

And, of course, the more native plants we grow and ecological niches we create in our gardens, the more this will also help to preserve not only the native plants themselves, but also the wildlife native to your area that depends upon those plants for survival

Conservation gardens are not just about the hard-core plant science. We need rigorous scientific work to protect our biodiversity, but ordinary gardeners in all areas can also play their part. By creating a garden filled with native plants, one which attracts an abundance of native wildlife, you can help in a small way to fight back against biodiversity losses.

We also need to preserve and protect plants in their native habitats, in situ. But in many cases, native habitats are threatened, by grazing or other farming practices, construction or development, or by other threats. Our gardens can be bastions against environmental destruction, providing safe sanctuary for native plants, including some that may be under threat.

View Article Sources
  1. "State of the World's Plants and Fungi." Royal Botanic Gardens.

  2. Knapp, Wesley M., et al. "Vascular Plant Extinction in the Continental United States and Canada." Conservation Biology, vol. 35, no. 1, 2020, pp. 360-368., doi:10.1111/cobi.13621