With over 1,800 species of plants in the collection, one of the more common questions we are asked is “Where do you get all of your plants?” It’s a great question when presented with the scope of diversity in the Conservatory. My short answer is that we get plants from “everywhere.”
It’s true when you think of the geography of the collection, which contains plants from far flung parts of the world like New Caledonia or Madeira. We get plants from folks down the road and import plants from across the globe. It’s also true when you consider the sources of our plants from other institutions like universities and botanical gardens to large growers or small specialty nurseries to private collectors. It really is true that we get plants from everywhere.
That said, one thing we never do is allow our acquisitions to negatively impact the survival of a plant in its habitat. We never collect sensitive plants from the wild or source plants in a way that would imperil a species.
Being aware of and anticipating the active research interests of our faculty enables us to build a research-ready collection, which brings together quality material with high-quality provenance data, and botanical and horticultural knowledge. By making both our plants and expertise available, and providing outreach opportunities such as tours and workshops throughout the year for the surrounding community, we promote regional engagement and interest.
Our beautiful new facility is spacious but it’s not infinite, and there are more plants than we have space to grow. So, selecting which plants make the cut is often the most challenging aspect of expanding our collection. We put a great deal of thought and research into selecting species that will fulfill our mission goals and be appropriate for our space and conditions. Sometimes that’s a tall order.
We spend much time exploring the world’s botanical diversity so we can work to meet the University’s various needs. Thankfully the State of Minnesota and the College of Biological Sciences decided to invest in the future of the collection by funding a new facility. This means we are well positioned to continue to “Bring the plants of the world to the people of Minnesota” for years to come. - Alex Eilts, Conservatory Research Associate