Walking through the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory offers visitors the opportunity to experience flora from far-flung corners of the planet. For the staff at the Conservatory, getting the non-native plants which live in those spaces can be tricky. A recent rare plant retrieval by Conservatory Coordinator Angie Koebler provides a case in point.
“Amborellas are very rare, endemic to the cloud forests of the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific,” says Koebler. “Only a few conservatories own this plant.”
This last spring, a team of scientists from Penn State University sent out a call saying they had extra Amborella plants for other conservatories or researchers to potentially use. The Amborella trichopoda is not only rare, but also the missing link between flowering and non-flowering plants. This particular group of plants came from a NSF-funded project to sequence Amborella DNA. The CBS Conservatory arranged to bring a number of these rare plants back to campus, with Koebler doing the transporting.
“The most challenging thing about getting the plants back was driving through the Allegheny Mountains in the dark, in a severe rainstorm in order to make a 6 a.m. flight out of Harrisburg,” says Koebler.
Koebler made her way to Pennsylvania this summer, stopping on Penn State’s campus to pick up the plants and package them for delivery back to St. Paul. After grabbing packing supplies at a U-Haul store, she had to prepare the plants for their trip, prompting a few odd moments in the hotel.
“I used the hotel luggage cart to move the plants in and out of the car into the hotel,” she says. “It’s always fun observing the hotel guests reactions when you have a cart full of plants.”
After getting packed up in the hotel room bathtub, multiple car rides, a flight and being unpacked in the Twin Cities, the Amborella plants are now growing in the Conservatory’s Cloud Forest Room.
“The plants are doing fantastic,” says Koebler. “In addition to new leaf growth, one female and one male have flowers.” -Lance Janssen