Q: How can I help tree conservation efforts at home?
A: On a worldwide basis, we are losing both tropical rainforests and temperate forests due to human and environmental factors. Planting trees at home and in botanic gardens offers the benefit of shade in our hot, humid climate, and also contributes to overall tree conservation.
International botanic garden groups work together to save tree species through worldwide collaboration. Botanic gardens become the repositories of species threatened in their native range. For example, there are 91 species of oaks in the United States alone. Our southern neighbor, Mexico, is home to 166 species of oaks. That seems like a lot, but here is the challenge: oak trees produce large fleshy seeds that can’t be stored in seed banks. The acorns must be planted when fresh to ensure the perpetuation of oak species.
I laughingly remember seeing the squirrel chasing an acorn across the frozen landscape in the eponymous cartoon movie “Ice Age.” Daily we see squirrels busy planting oak trees when they hide their stored acorns in your yard. So, when plant biologists collect acorns, they plant them immediately in permanent, protected sites within garden collections, much like how zoos protect endangered animals. The best way to prevent species extinction is through a consortium of gardens that protect these vulnerable species by growing them in the best-suited climate that resembles their native range.
When you visit a botanic garden or arboretum, look around and consider the conservation efforts going on behind the scenes. And don’t forget, you can help too by planting trees at home!