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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Plant Conservation

Pinkshell Azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) 522-82-MASS Ned Friedman
Rhododendron vaseyi 522-82-MASS

The Arnold Arboretum supports plant conservation initiatives to promote healthy environments locally as well as around the globe. The Arboretum helps to conserve natural resources and biodiversity by participating in a wide variety of collaborative and institutional initiatives that further plant conservation efforts worldwide.

Threatened Plant Highlights

For more than a century, the Arnold Arboretum has been an international leader in botanical research by collecting, distributing, and studying unique species from all corners of the Earth. Today, many species in the living collection have become threatened in the wild, as habitat destruction and climate change escalate. These rare specimens are of great conservation value, and the Arboretum maintains that value by properly caring for living specimens, keeping detailed records for each plant on the grounds, and documenting plants with herbarium specimens and digital images. Staff also distribute germplasm and related information to researchers around the world.

As part of this commitment to conservation, the Arnold Arboretum has been a participating institution of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) since its establishment in 1984. The living collection currently holds nine of the North American native species on the CPC nationally threatened plants list, and the Arboretum is responsible for taking action in curating and using the germplasm to facilitate plant conservation efforts for these species. Below are our CPC holdings, with links to Plant Profiles on the CPC website.

Institutional Collaboration for Plant Conservation

The Arnold Arboretum supports a variety of organizations that work to conserve and enrich botanical diversity at the regional, national, and global levels. Below are descriptions of how these collaborations have aided plant conservation.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International

In 2008, the Arnold Arboretum renewed its membership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), an organization that connects and coordinates garden-based conservation efforts internationally. In addition to working with the North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Plant Conservation, an initiative of the new BGCI North American office, the Arboretum has contributed a large amount of data to BGCI’s Plant Search database to extend its collections information to researchers and gardens all over the world.

BGCI also supports the development and implementation of global policy—specifically the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC)―at the global, regional, national, and local levels.

In 2010, the Arnold Arboretum partnered with BGCI US to conduct the North American Collections Assessment, which found that only 39% of North American threatened species are maintained ex situ in plant and seed collections. BGCI is committed to helping achieve the GPSC Target 8, which calls for 75% of threatened plants to be conserved ex situ by 2020.

The Center for Plant Conservation

Originating at the Arnold Arboretum in 1984, The Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) is a national coordinating organization now stationed at the Missouri Botanical Garden that works “to conserve and restore the rare native plants of the United States.” The Arnold Arboretum holds nine of the CPC National Collection’s threatened species, serving as a custodian of the germplasm so that it can be used as a resource for restoration and research.

Plant Collections Network

Forsythia 'meadowlark' 273-2002-B
Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’ 273-2002-B

Since 2002, the Arboretum has been a member of the Plant Collections Network (PCN, formerly North American Plant Collections Consortium [NAPCC]), a network of botanical gardens administered through the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The primary focus of PCN is the long-term preservation of germplasm for research. Participating institutions commit to holding and developing collections that are primarily organized at the genus level.

The Arboretum holds eight collections for PCN: Acer (maple), Carya (hickory), Fagus (beech), Forsythia, Ginkgo, Stewartia, Syringa (lilac), and Tsuga (hemlock). Our PCN focus is on botanical taxa—cultivated plants are exempt—and our goal is to maximize diversity both within each genus and within each species. The Arboretum’s holdings of these eight genera are quite robust, representing some of the largest and best documented collections of their kind in the world. Because of their importance, our Collections Policy prioritizes their development and care as core collections.

For information on how to get involved with conservation projects in your Massachusetts community, visit MassWildlife online.