Naples Botanical Garden helps preserve plant life, ecosystem

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Shelves on shelves of plants, seeds, and their genetic information are stored at the Naples Botanical Garden.

“So this is one of our main seeding propagation rooms,” said Jessica DeYoung, a conservation horticulture manager at the Naples Botanical Garden.

There are 87 plant species and over 280,000 seeds stored for future use, but as DeYoung said, one of those insurance policy plants is needed now.

“So this is Pineland twinflower,” DeYoung said. “This is a plant that grew in Rookery Bay Reserve, and one very particular population, and nowhere else in that area. And this plant disappeared after Hurricane Ian. And so thankfully, we had just collected seeds.”

Because of that, they were able to bring Pineland twinflower back.

DeYoung and her team don’t just preserve rare plants because like Ian showed us, the future of every plant is unknown.

“Our palm trees or cabbage palms, we’re experiencing lethal bronzing. Our pine trees, we have pine bark beetles. And these are all things that are decimating populations, and very common plants that you wouldn’t think of for conservation reach,” DeYoung said.

And saving seeds goes far beyond Southwest Florida.

A cacti from Puerto Rico is being wiped out by a pest.

The garden is keeping its seeds safe and working to figure out biocontrol for that pest.

The crucial step for seed banking is dessicator cabinets that take moisture out of the air.

“What you want is the seeds to reach a certain percent of humidity, and then they can be freezed without the water expanding and breaking it,” DeYoung said.

Collecting the seeds is one task.

But figuring out how they function and how they grow is another because a lot of that information is unknown.

Some wetland plant seeds need to be soaked.

Seeds that are typically windblown may need their seeds coats eroded.

“Essentially, each species, kind of, is unique, and it does its own thing,” she said. “We have to unlock that secret.”

What’s not a secret is that every plant has a purpose.

And if something does disappear, the garden can act so that our region doesn’t lose its function in the ecosystem.

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