Due Diligence: A Case for Taxonomic Expertise In Plant Conservation

Sula Vanderplank, San Diego Zoo Global

The cross-border seedbanking initiative affectionately known as ‘Baja Rare’ targets around 65 taxa that are documented to be rare, threatened or endangered both sides of the MX/US border.  Many of these plants are far better-known in the US than in Mexico and as a result, our program has had to start with significant reconnaissance and surveys to find the populations historically documented.  In four cases (Streptanthus campestris, Navarrettia peinsularis, Erythranthe purpurea and Acmispon haydonii), expert botanical participation has revealed mis-identifications which make each of these three plants significantly rarer than previously assumed.  This project has also revealed at least one new highly restricted endemic taxon and multiple taxa worth of further study.  The role of the expert botanist is essential.