Talia Portner, Honolulu Botanical Gardens
Hawaii has approximately 1400 native plant species of which more than 90% are found nowhere else in the world. However, at least 30% of these species are endangered and 100 have already gone extinct due to land use change, ongoing pressure from introduced species, and the loss of pollinators and dispersers.To address these threats, Hawai’i has a well established conservation community with a history of partnerships between state, federal and private entities. The Honolulu Botanical Gardens (HBG) have great potential to provide living genebanks and access for botanical research for many of Hawai’i’s rarest plants. The Gardens are comprised of five geographically separate grounds covering 650 acres across Oahu, including a historic urban arboretum, former picnic grounds of Hawaiian royalty, a mid-elevation garden, a large, wet habitat grounds with a reservoir, and even a volcanic crater. HBG’s facilities not only provide an ideal habitat for living collections, but our dedicated staff serve as critical resource for protecting individual plants and providing information to our partners and the public. Although I am newly adopted into the botanical garden community as the HBG Horticulturist, I draw on the experience and challenges faced over 14 years of botanical field work with Hawaii’s rarest plants with Oahu’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program. I am now working with HBG staff and leadership to move the gardens towards an ecosystem conservation approach by which can build larger, ex-situ communities of Hawaiian species by working with my colleagues in the conservation community who specialize in collecting wild propagules as well as cutting edge seed storage and micropropagation technologies. Developing our role to manage living collections of Hawaiian plants will provide a critical resource for these conservation programs and help communicate the value of Hawaii’s natural heritage to the public.