On Tuesday, September 16, at 7:30pm, Jennifer Ceska, Conservation Coordinator at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (UGA) will present a lecture titled “Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance: Postcards from the Field” in McElreath Hall at the Atlanta History Center. This lecture is part of the Georgia Perennial Plant Association series and is free and open to the public.
Recently I spoke with Jennifer by telephone about her upcoming lecture. After a few days of phone tag, she explained that while spring may be busy for gardeners, fall is busy too. In her role as the Conservation Coordinator for the State Botanical Garden in Athens, she is busy collecting seed and doing a myriad tasks. I asked her how she came to have this job and she said that as a graduate student at UGA in 1994 she began investigating how Botanic gardens could establish plant conservation programs. She studied existing programs at a wide range of gardens including the Arnold Arboretum, Missouri Botanical Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Bok Tower Gardens and Fairchild Tropical Gardens.
In 1995 the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, a network of of professionals from museums, universities, agencies, and land-holding companies was formed. Jennifer had created a dream job and all her graduate research made her ideal the ideal candidate.
I asked her about home gardeners and how they can help with plant conservation. And while endangered species may not be the first thing you think of when you work in your own garden, Jennifer reminds us “that plants are not optional.”
She stresses that by incorporating even just a few native plants into our gardens (urban, suburban, etc) this will help Georgia wildlife, providing habitats and attracting pollinators.
With fall just around the corner, I can think of wonderful natives to consider including in your garden like the Mountain mints, Pycnanthemum, asters, Joe-pye weed, sumacs, goldenrod and native grasses. Just make sure to select the right plants for the right place, in terms of light, water and soil requirements. Do a little research before you plant.
The GPCA focuses on large conservation projects to restore and protect Georgia’s most critically endangered plant species and communities. The GPCA has been coordinated by the State Botanical Garden since 1995 with the goal of preventing local extinctions in Georgia, and with real successes:
To date there are 36 active organizations, 80 endangered species in active recovery, 31 species in safeguarding in wild protected sites, as well as 10 students who have gone on to careers in conservation, and five other states using the GPCA model for their conservation networks.