Curing Plant Blindness

Kay Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden

Plant conservation is promoted through outreach and advocacy. One way to cure plant blindness is by engaging the public in authentic research, as illustrated by the Bud Burst citizen science program. After 10 years of crowdsourcing phenology data, Bud Burst managers decided they could better engage the public by bringing them on a journey of research: asking a question, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. The question currently under investigation at five sites across the U.S. is whether cultivars of native species provide the same pollinator support as true, wild-type natives.

Government officials must also learn to value plants and plant communities. The Chicago Botanical Garden recently collaborated with the Garden Society of America and other groups to write HR1572, the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research Restoration and Promotion Act. The bill creates an educational tool for elected officials, media and the public, and it encourages introduction of legislative proposals and enactment into law. The main aims of the bill are to fund needed research, encourage students to train for careers in botany and land management, and build a market for native plant materials.