Collection Maintenance Strategies: A Case Study at Mercer Botanic Gardens

Anita Tiller and Suzzanne Chapman, Mercer Botanic Gardens

Mercer Botanic Gardens, a Harris County(HC) Precinct 4(P4) Parks facility is susceptible to periodic floods. Rainfall in the drainage basin of Cypress Creek, adjacent to Mercer, ranged from 35-50” during the course of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. As a participating institution for the CPC, Mercer maintains a seed bank, conservation nursery, display garden and a prairie preserve. The Mercer Botanical Center (MBC), Mercer’s research facility received 8-9” of flood water. The seed bank within the MBC received no damage since collections remained above flood water and no power was lost due to the building’s standby generator. Mercer’s CPC nursery received over 10’ of flood water. Even though plant stock remained under water for about 5 days, the collections suffered minimal damage. Mercer’s endangered species display garden received about 8’ of flood water for about 5 days. Some display plants were lost and others are recovering. Mercer’s conservation staff have much experience with preventative disaster maintenance strategies, thus conservation collections suffered minimal loss due to our maintenance protocols and diligent post flood cleanup. Fall 2017 surveys and seed collections were completed at the HC P4 Prairie Dawn Preserve. April 2018 surveys at the preserve of Hymenoxys texana found about 1,000 more plants than the 60 surveyed in 2016, though more than 10,000 less prior to the April and Tax Day floods of 2016. Immediate support received from HC P4 personnel, Mercer volunteers and from partners and donors, including the CPC, greatly assisted Mercer’s recovery.