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  • April 04, 2023 11:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    After 20 years’ experience in public gardens, my love of plants continues to astound me. There’s always something new and unexpected to learn about the ways that plants, animals, and people are connected. That’s especially true in the world of zooticulture—the art of horticulture in a zoo—a discipline that’s become my latest passion after beginning a new position at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota. I have that wonderful, familiar feeling of being excited about a new aspect of horticulture that’s taken me by surprise.

    My job is to create inviting landscapes, gardens, and habitats that the Zoo’s more than 1,000 animals will thrive in, and that over 2 million annual visitors will love. Over the past year, it’s been a steep learning curve. I’ve spent hours with my zookeeping colleagues learning the differences between mountain lions and snow leopards, orangutans, and spider monkeys; all to understand the unique habitats the animals come from and the varied plant life they depend on. I’ve learned the value of a bobo ball (a seal-training toy), what vegetables gorillas prefer (pumpkins), and what to do if a thousand - pound polar bear escapes (hiding under your desk is not the correct answer).

    Visiting other zoos and botanical gardens has been particularly helpful during my zooticulture endeavor. To seek inspiration as the Como Park Zoo plans for a renovation of its large cat habitat, I visited the Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens to see their stunning new lion exhibit. With the elevated rocks featured in the exhibit, the lions can sit above the heads of visitors and look out at the horizon like they would do in the savannah, giving the cats an even more impressive stature. As I thought about our resident lion Mumford, who serenades the neighbors with a mid-morning growl around 10 a.m., I wondered what we can do to make his Minnesota home look more like a grassy savannah. While our lion exhibit has majestic mature oaks and a platform built for the lion’s viewing ease, we’re working on how we can make his home look more like the natural habitat of a lion. To that end, we’ve decided on adding some honey locust, Gleditsia tricanthos, which resemble the Acacia trees native to Mumford’s ancestral African home.

    Planning our exhibit upgrades brings me to another question--how does a zoo keep its exhibits looking fresh with 1,000-pound animals rolling and running around in the space? One amazing tip I learned from a visit to the Oregon Zoo, nestled into a massive redwood forest, is to have keepers—not horticulturists—bring new plants to a habitat. If a keeper does the planting, the animals who know the keeper’s scent, will be less likely to dig up the plant.

    Finally, there is the question of “browse,” the term zookeepers use for fresh plant material for the animals to eat. As a conservation-focused institution, we work hard to eliminate waste and make use of all the natural resources we have on site. Fortunately, our animals love to eat all the invasive species that we’re removing from our display gardens. Weeds like mulberry, Morus alba, are such a scrumptious treat for our giraffes, and our keepers call dibs on who gets the most freshly cut invasives! Now we’re working on finding an area on our campus to create a “browse forest” for our animals. While the neighbors might need some convincing, as a new zooticulturist, I can see that a cultivated weed patch could actually be a thing of beauty. If we spray pesticides inside the Conservatory, can we still feed the banana leaves we trim to the animals in the zoo? What about after two weeks, when the chemicals have cycled out of the plant? Does it depend upon the chemical, or the animal? These are the questions we have to consider in every corner of the zoo, and it’s no wonder I’m finding zooticulture to be the most challenging and fascinating horticulture I’ve ever practiced.

    Lisa Philander, Ph.D. Director of Horticulture at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

  • March 16, 2023 1:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    Zoo Tales Blog: Gardening for Gorillas – Trials, tricks, and triumphs of a zoo horticulturalist

    Posted: 25th February, 2023

    For Zoo Tales week, Stephen Butler, Curator of Horticulture at Dublin Zoo, introduces Gardening for Gorillas and the symbiotic significance of plants in the animal world...

    I love plants. Pure and simple. A zoo is for animals, isn’t it? Yes, but animals need plants need animals, so many links. Plants are the physical structure of many natural habitats, and of course are at the bottom of almost all food chains. So, in a zoo, plants can be very useful in many ways.

    Plants contribute, naturally, to the five freedoms of animal welfare. Carefully chosen, plants provide enrichment, natural feeding, or play. Plants provide shade and shelter. Plants allow normal behaviour, food gathering and climbing. Plants provide screening from other animals (and, dare I say, visitors).

    Plants add immensely to the ambience of the zoo, creating, with careful plant choice, a unique character to different areas. Being surrounded by plants is beneficial to our feelings and health, and surely the animals feel better too. Plus, all the benefits of carbon storage and rain absorption in planted areas. Plants can also be an incredible educational resource.

    I spent 37 years increasing the planted aspect of Dublin Zoo. The Victorian fence lines slowly disappeared, and some animal areas were planted too. Each animal has their own challenges though! Geese ruled the lake edges, finding plants to resist their beaks – and feet – was indeed a long, drawn-out contest but the plants ultimately won. At the opposite end of the scale, I found plants that elephants would not touch!

    On retiring I considered writing about my experiences. There is, to my knowledge, no other book that details planting with zoo animals and the unique challenges presented. The combination of possible soil damage from feet, damage from teeth, lips, or trunks, and the physical breaking or pulling up of plants can at times be hard to beat.

    But, and it’s a very useful, and big, but, zoo horticulturalists are beating the animals – in the nicest possible way of course! Designing a new exhibit for animals must include the horticultural team from day one – design planted areas that allow the plants to grow, enough soil depth and root area especially, adequate light, and irrigation if needed – protected in such a way that the animals cannot access and damage, or maybe not access too much. Information about the animal behaviour, and dietary preferences, is key to the horticultural team succeeding on the plant side. If plants are not palatable they may be left alone, the trick is not to have anything actually toxic….

    Even better, the zoo horticulturalists have become organised, with regular conferences, newsletters, and articles. More importantly, they have developed a website www.zooplants.net. This lists hundreds of plants used in hundreds of exhibits. So, for any new exhibit/habitat being planned, the horticulturalists can refer to the website and see examples of plant use in other zoos – what worked, or maybe didn’t – an incredible resource.

    There are two examples from the book Gardening for Gorillas that I refer to often. Purple willow Salix purpurea with the gorillas. The animal team reckoned all planting would be pulled up in days. The gorillas sampled the willow the first day – and spat it out in disgust! Full of salicylic acid, harmless but incredibly bitter. Completely ignored, the willows flowered in spring after 4 years….and the gorillas then ate them – but only the probably acid-free catkins, so much so that they had green chins from the pollen. Perfect temporary enrichment. The orangutan new island was very heavily planted with shrubs trialled and left alone by the gorillas. The mix included cardoons, Cynara cardunculus, with very large felty leaves. Left alone at first, the orangutan then started stripping the leaves off. Laid in a neat pile they were insulation from cold or wet ground. Again, great enrichment and no real harm to the plant.

    The book has chapters on different habitats, and information about the horticultural input in the design process, problems encountered and solutions found. A chapter on soil compaction caused by animals, using urban soil and perhaps grass reinforcement mesh, is extremely useful – muddy conditions are not good for staff or animals! A much larger chapter details the educational aspects of some of the plants used around Dublin Zoo. The Education Team were keen to use the resource that grew all around them, but didn’t know enough about the plants. A spreadsheet was developed by the horticulture team listing the plants that could be used, in different seasons, as examples – pollination or medicinal use say – information that is being uploaded to www.zooplants.net too.

    If my book helps encourage more zoos to use more plants, for the animals’ benefit, and for the visitors as a pleasant background, with educational tours that include plants too, I’ll feel the effort was well worth it.


    Stephen Butler Dip Hort Kew, Editor for ZooLex

    Curator of Horticulture, Dublin Zoo, 1981-2018

    All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not a reflection of BIAZA's positions. 

  • December 27, 2022 10:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Zoo horticulture involves more than enhancing the landscape for its resident animal populations as evidenced by the thousands of dollars used to protect and conserve the natural environment within our zoos and around the world. One of the core values of the Association of Zoological Horticulture (AZH) is conservation of rare plants and plant diversity.  This commitment to plant conservation through the AZH Plant Conservation Grant program began in 1992 and has awarded over $500,000 to projects spanning the country and the globe.

    AZH plant conservation grants encourage plant conservation activities and partnerships within and between AZH members, member zoos and member zoo partners.  Grant monies are provided through the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF), AZH member donations, and auction proceeds from annual conferences. The focus for these grants should be plant conservation activities that tie to habitat conservation, biological diversity preservation, germplasm preservation, environmental education. AZH Plant Conservation Grants are awarded for both in-situ and ex-situ plant conservation work.

    The Association of Zoological Horticulture is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the advancement of zoo horticulture in zoological parks, gardens, and aquariums. AZH works to highlight the importance of plants within zoos and aquariums, and seeks to support the horticulturists who work in a zoological setting.

    2022 AZH Plant Conservation Grant recipients

    Working towards safeguarding four endangered species endemic to the Sierra Bermeja region of Puerto Rico,  

    Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

    The project would further safeguard four endangered and endemic species native to the Sierra Bermeja region in southwestern Puerto Rico, in continuation of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s (FTBG) previous work in this area. This project will focus on four species: Aristida chaseae, Aristida portoricensis, Lepidaploa proctorii and Lyonia truncata var. proctorii. All four species are known from six or fewer populations in the wild of which several are threatened by habitat loss through development on unprotected land and competition by invasive species (Flickinger et al. 2022).

    Evaluating tree guards and biochar/wood chipping-enriched top dressing to improve survival and growth of young native trees planted in challenging conditions at Parc Ivoloina, Madagascar,

    Naples Zoo/Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group with Missouri Botanical Garden

    The goal of the project is to provide a science-based evaluation of the impact of tree guards and the
    use of biochar/wood chip-enriched top-dressing in promoting the survival and increasing growth rate in of young native Malagasy trees out-planted on impoverished soil in exposed locations in Parc Ivoloina.  More specifically our objective in this project is to compare average (N = 50) 12-month mortality and growth of out-planted seedlings of ten native tree species in each of four treatments: a) tree guard + top dressing; b) tree guard; c) top dressing; and d) control.

    Cultivating Cross-border Collaborations towards Conserving Threatened Oaks,

    San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

    The purpose of this grant is to support the conservation of two priority, threatened oaks (Quercus cedrosensis and Quercus dumosa) through cross-border partnerships in southern California and Baja California, Mexico.  We request support to conduct a surveying trip to collect more information for two threatened oaks, Quercus cedrosensis and Q. dumosa, locally rare species, so as to gain a better understanding of the populations’ status in Baja California, build relationships with the local partners, to identify and prioritize collaborations to further conserve the populations, as well as, gather material to conserve the species in ex situ living collections; the seed grown from the ex situ individuals can be used for future restoration efforts.  Additionally, we request support to host a workshop to exchange tools, information and foster new partnerships to work together on the priority actions identified in the conservation action plan, to continue to make progress on conserving the full native range of each of the species, and that we have the tools and resources to share more
    broadly to further engage more partners outside of the workshop to leverage further support in this important work.

    Enhancing conservation of Piñuelo ( Pelliciera benthamii) to support integrated mangrove ecosystem and
    species conservation efforts,

    Naples Botanical Garden/Cartagena Botanical Garden

    This project aims to expand conservation efforts for Piñuelo (Pelliciera benthamii), a segregated species from Pelliciera rhizophorae (Duke, 2020). Piñuelo is a mangrove plant species restricted to small populations in the Panamanian Pacific and the Colombian Caribbean. P. rhizophorae was listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to isolated populations, reduced range, and decline in habitat quality. We are re-assessing P. benthamii, and its conservation status will most likely change from vulnerable to endangered. This project will build on an existing project targeting the collection and propagation of P. benthamii and supports the recommended conservation action for the species identified by Blanco-Libreros and Ramirez-Ruiz (2021). The project will be initiated at the beginning of 2023 and completed by the end of the same year.

  • March 24, 2022 11:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In an effort to care for our plants and animals the best way possible while minimizing any negative impact on the environment, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden applies integrated pest management practices wherever possible. Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a five-step plan that starts with identifying the pest.

    Once you know what you are dealing with, monitoring pest activity is the next step to help determine the action needed for each situation. Every pest has a life cycle; understanding it is critical to establish control measures. We follow a handy flow chart to help determine the best action and choose the controls that work best for the situation. Controls include physical/mechanical, cultural, chemical or biological methods. Sometimes all are used in order to handle the task at hand, but we start with those that have the least potential impacts. At MPZ&BG, we tend to use chemical controls as a last resort once other measures have been exhausted. 

    The botanical department uses all measures of IPM. In the 10,000-square-foot Amazonia rainforest, taking care of plant pests such as mealy bugs and scale can be a challenge. In order to keep animals and people safe, we do not use insecticide sprays inside Amazonia. Physical controls involve keeping leaf litter cleaned up to minimize hiding spots and breeding grounds. Cultural controls include providing plants with optimal conditions, including proper humidity, lighting, and water. Maintaining plant health is vital because pests tend to attack stressed plants the most. Our biological controls involve releasing beneficial insects. One of our favorites is the Cryptolaemus montrouzieri or mealy bug destroyer. As their common name suggests, these beetles lay their eggs in the cottony masses of mealy bug nests. Once they hatch, the larvae voraciously eat mealy bugs. Crytomleamus beetles are beneficial in both adult and larval stages and are great to use in Amazonia as well as the three support greenhouses on zoo property. Aphytis melinus are tiny wasps used for scale control and lacewing larvae are employed for other soft bodied insects including aphids.

    While the use of beneficial insects doesn’t always eradicate the pest problems, it maintains a healthy balance for plants to thrive as well as keeping our staff, visitors, and animals safe from pesticide exposure.

    The addition of Amazonia in 2008 created the perfect environment for the creatures intended to live there and some that were not—including roaches! Animal food and lots of hiding spots were big attractions to several roach species. Again, we followed the steps to identify and decide which control methods would work best for the situation, then got to work to keep roaches in check. Early on, we implemented a control program that consisted of monitoring and assessing numbers, then releasing a parasitic wasp, Aprostocetus hagenowii, biweekly. The wasp will seek out roach egg cases and lay its eggs inside. Once the wasp eggs hatch, the larvae eat the contents of the roach egg case. The adults then emerge to find more roach eggs to parasitize. Once established, the wasps help to control roach populations. Nearly 14 years later, we think they may still be at work. Another release is planned this year to continue the process. While this doesn’t eliminate roaches completely, it works in tandem with other control methods to keep them in check. 

    Another cool IPM program we use is to control filth flies that tend to attack the ears of animals such as wolves and tigers. The horticulture and animal departments work together to release another type of predatory wasp that helps control filth flies. Every other week from April until September, fly egg cases parasitized by wasps arrive and are distributed to different areas of the zoo. The horticulture staff fill and leave bottles for each animal area at the commissary to be picked up along with animal diets. Zookeepers and staff then add them to the proper release containers in the animal and compost areas. With these two departments working together, we help to reduce the number of annoying flies that can spread bacteria and disease and are a nuisance to animals.

    When adding new animal habitats like Penguins of Patagonia, IPM is factored in from the beginning. Mosquitos can carry West Nile virus which is a primary health concern for our precious birds. Many IPM measures have been put in to place to keep them safe. Physical control includes oscillating fans to create air movement as mosquitos dislike turbulence. Culture controls involve assuring that gutters and other areas are clear of standing water. Biological controls include planting plants that deter mosquitos in the landscaping around the habitat as well as installing bat boxes and releasing native mosquito fish to surrounding ponds. Chemical controls are available, but we are confident that by controlling breeding conditions for mosquitos, we will successfully control the population. 

    IPM is a responsible and environmentally friendly way to control pest populations. This method can be used to control flies, plant-sucking insects, roaches, and many other undesirables. While pests are always challenging, it’s fun to be creative with management methods on zoo grounds. IPM encourages collaboration between departments and promotes a well-rounded way to keep our plants, animals, staff, and visitors safe.

    Misty Minar, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden

  • February 13, 2022 12:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By AZH member Andrew Lyell, Senior Gardener, Los Angeles Zoo

    The path of Cupid's arrow is straight and true:  the target is a lover's heart. But some of us need a little extra assistance, which can be found abundantly in the garden. The gift flowers to your beloved is ancient and very effective. But there are other ways of expressing love with plants. In addition to the classic bouquet of roses, champagne, perfumes, and chocolate are common gifts to lovers. All are plant based...

    The common names of some of the plants we grow are full of romance. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena, is one of my all-time favorites. It is a small annual grown for its light-blue or white flowers and also for the dried seed pods that follow the blooms. Their complex shape is fascinating and both are beautiful.

    Nigella damascena, Love-in-a-Mist

    Bleeding Heart, Lamprocapnis spectabilis, is a rhizomatous perennial that produces inflorescences that look like strings of small hearts held aloft and dangling in the breeze. Love-Lies-Bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus, is another wonderfully named plant that will easily establish itself in many gardens, but can become weedy if not kept in check. The genus name comes from the Greek word for “unfading”: amarantos. The long red, tassel-like flower sprays add splashes of color followed by seeds that are edible.

    Lamprocapnis spectabilis, Bleeding Heart

    Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis, is a small plant commonly used as a groundcover with clusters of pretty blue flowers. As the name implies, its traditional meaning is remembrance. There are dozens of Myosotis species, several of which are native to the Americas. The sassy Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) is a medium sized plant native to Africa that is grown for its tall flower spikes of red, orange, and yellow. It’s also known as Torch Lily, in case you are still carrying a torch for someone.

    Myosotis, Forget-Me-Not, 

    One of the many common names for yarrow (Achillea) is "devil's plaything" because it was used for fortunetelling and spell casting. In the past, people also believed that placing yarrow under their pillows would make them dream of matters of love.

    Many plants have heart-shaped leaves that also serve nicely as symbols of love. Cyclamen is sometimes used as an annual bedding plant. Its heart-shaped leaves enhance beautiful blooms of red or pink, common colors for Valentine’s Day. Redbud trees (Cercis) also produce heart-shaped leaves, which on some cultivars such as ‘Forest Pansy’ are dark purple, adding eye-catching color to the landscape. In early spring when the tree is still leafless the whole tree explodes with light purple flowers. It is a stunning sight to see several of them flowering en masse.

    There are several Sweetheart Plants. Heart-Leaf Philodendron is is an easy to grow houseplant, and maybe the best example of a heart shaped leaf is Hoya kerrii. The cute little hearts are planted in small pots and sold at supermarket florists as Valentine's Day gifts. (Though the leaves alone will root, they won’t develop into vines unless a stem node is included. These singles are “blind leaves.”) And for steadfast streamers of Valentines, Ceropegia woodii, string of hearts, is another sweet selection.

    Many of us like to celebrate our Day of Love by enjoying a meal at a nice restaurant with a bottle of champagne or good wine. Or maybe a cocktail or two. These drinks wouldn't exist if it wasn't for plants. Grapes, Agaves, hops, cereal grains such as barley, wheat, and rice, plus many types of fruit including elderberries, apples, peaches, and cherries have all been used for hundreds of years to produce intoxicating beverages, which have long been used as aphrodisiacs. Nutmeg, saffron, and ginseng, among many other plant products have shown to be effective in improving the amorous reactions for some people.

    Fragrant plants can also evoke feelings of affection and more. The seductive scent of lavender (Lavandula) can induce a sense of ultra-relaxation. It is also used in sachets to perfume clothing drawers and garments worn close to the skin. Romans considered basil (Ocimum) the herb of love. Its aromatic leaves are used in many cultures and during food preparation, when sweet smells can fill the kitchen and adjacent rooms—perhaps even the bedroom. ;-)

    A powerful way to show you love someone is to cook a favorite dish using herbs and vegetables from your garden. The sacred act of nourishing our bodies with food we have grown and raised ourselves from our gardens is always a joy.

    Harvest some love from the plants you grow in your garden. Then share your love. Show your love for AZH by reaching out to fellow members to say hello and to rekindle acquaintances.

    Photo credit:  Andrew Lyell, Sandy Masuo

  • October 06, 2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2020 AZH Plant Conservation Grant recipient Valerie Pence and Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden have put together a free symposium and workshop on using cryotechnology in plant conservation programs.

    Join the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s free three-day symposium and workshop October 19-21, 2021. You’ll hear from leading experts in the field of exceptional plant conservation and cryopreservation. Using oaks as a sample species, attendees will learn about the potentials of cryotechnologies and how they can be applied to a wide range of exceptional species. This event is free, but registration is required. Learn more and register here.

  • September 23, 2021 12:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

    Eagle Passage isn’t just a forever home for rescued, injured bald eagles, or an immersive experience that inspires visitors with a conservation success story. Now, the unique habitat at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park has also been nationally recognized with top honors in the 2021 Exhibit Award category from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

    The award was presented online at the AZA Virtual Annual Conference on Wednesday, September 22.


    “Receiving this award is a high honor for Northwest Trek,” said Alan Varsik, director of Northwest Trek and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. “Our visitors know how special Northwest Trek is, and it’s wonderful to have national recognition of the work we do. Eagle Passage is the result of our staff’s creativity and commitment to conservation, and the generous support of the Northwest Trek Foundation. This award recognizes that on a national level.”

    Eagle Passage opened to the public on August 3, 2019 as both a way to tell the bald eagle conservation story and as a home for rescued bald eagles injured in the wild. Enclosed with high airy netting, it utilizes many existing old-growth Douglas firs, with cables and mesh attached to the forest giants via a unique, bolt-free block-and-collar system that allows the trees free growth. A walkway through the center allows visitors to see majestic bald eagles close-up while giving the birds – all of whom have some degree of long-term wing injury – a safe passage between habitat sections.

    In addition, Northwest Trek operations staff created safe perches for the injured eagles using 100-year-old dead tree snags repurposed from where they had fallen in other areas of the park. Cheveyo, an eagle with a completely amputated wing, was given her own exclusive area with low perches and branches covered with anti-slip material to help her balance.

    To complete the experience for visitors, interactive displays tell the timeline story of how this iconic American species was saved from extinction by community action, as well as giving children a chance to “measure their wings” against a life-size graphic and climb inside a life-size concrete “nest.” Northwest native plantings, including 30-year-old sword ferns salvaged from construction sites, fill out both the habitat and the bigger ecological story.

    “My goal was to make Eagle Passage look and feel like where you would find bald eagles in the wild – up at Mount Rainier or on the Olympic Peninsula,” said wildlife park horticulturist Jake Pool.

    Eagle Passage cost a total of $578,474, which was raised by the nonprofit Northwest Trek Foundation from community donations. Key donors are recognized with bronze “feathers” on a low outside wall which surrounds a majestic bronze eagle statue by local artist Ed Kroupa.


    Native to North America and once plentiful across the United States, bald eagles were close to extinction in the Lower 48 states by the middle of the 20th century. The Endangered Species Act and other laws, such as a ban on the pesticide DDT, afforded them the ability to safely reproduce. The species is no longer endangered and is more than a national symbol; it is an example of how people working together can help protect wild animals and wild places.

    “Eagle Passage was designed to tell the recovery story of the bald eagle, reinforce our vital conservation mission and, most importantly, offer a message of hope to our guests and community about what we can do if we all care together,” added Varsik. “This award recognizes Northwest Trek’s cultural relevance, as well as our commitment to animal welfare.”

    The Eagle Passage habitat can be found in the main walking area of Northwest Trek, every day that the wildlife park is open. For more information, see the website.

  • June 30, 2021 11:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Welcome To CPC: Zoo New England

    Based on CPC Application

    Our network is growing, and with it grows our ability to save rare and endangered plants from extinction. Zoo New England (ZNE), located in Boston, Massachusetts, has a mission “to inspire people to protect and sustain the natural world for future generations by creating fun and engaging experiences that integrate wildlife and conservation programs, research, and education.” To that end, ZNE has been developing new organizational practices, weaving conservation into their onsite visitor experiences, and spearheading plant conservation projects to advocate for plants and biodiversity. These efforts made ZNE an excellent candidate for the CPC network, and the CPC Board of Trustees voted to approve their admission to the network in February 2021.

    Image of Bryan Windmiller (ZNE Field Conservation Department) measuring density of flowering New England blazing star stems at Kennebunk Plains Conservation Area, Maine, one of the source sites for their reintroduction program (2015). Photo: Emilie Wilder

    In recent years, ZNE has placed strategic focus on honing their expertise in plant conservation to equally emphasize both plant and wildlife conservation in their work and onsite experiences. They have led small-scale reintroductions of a rare plant species in the Metro Boston area, the state-listed species, New England blazing star (Liatris novae-angliae), and they have worked with regulatory agencies to monitor populations of threatened Britton’s violet (Viola brittoniana) and the related Viola pectinata. ZNE’s robust plant collection – a highlight of their onsite visitor experience – includes pollinator plants in their butterfly exhibit, an organic garden, and a rain garden. To strategically expand existing plant collections, ZNE recruited horticulturists who collaborate with conservation staff in developing curated plant collections that reflect the geographic regions their animal collections are endemic to and also educate visitors about the role of plants in an animal’s ecosystem. Additionally, their team is developing new collections of native plants, succulents, carnivorous plants, and more.

    On an broad scale, ZNE has partnered with Dr. Bryan Connolly of Eastern Connecticut State University to conserve several species of rare Solanum native to the Caribbean. Utilizing ZNE greenhouses, the team has established captive populations of Solanum conocarpum from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Solanum ensifolium from Puerto Rico. Both species are critically endangered, with Solanum ensifolium believed to be nearly extinct in the wild. ZNE staff members have traveled to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, to assist with local reintroduction projects for Solanum conocarpum. ZNE hopes to eventually assist with reintroduction projects of two additional critically endangered Virgin Islands species, Erythrina eggersii and Eugenia earhardtii.

    Image of Cara McElroy (ZNE Field Conservation Department) and volunteers Warren Lyman and Jacqueline Edgett planting 2 year-old New England blazing stars in both fenced and unfenced plots at one of Zoo New England's reintroduction sites (Foss Farm, Carlisle - 2020). Photo: Bryan Windmiller

    As they continue in this crucial work, Zoo New England is eager to connect and collaborate with other Participating Institutions and to contribute to our collective efforts to Save Plants. Their team’s dedication to plant conservation and educating the public on the critical importance of biodiversity for all life on Earth makes them an exciting addition to the CPC network.

  • January 21, 2021 3:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Association of Zoological Horticulture

    2020-2021 Commitment to Plant Conservation

    Zoo horticulture involves more than enhancing the landscape for its resident animal populations as evidenced by the thousands of dollars used to protect and conserve the natural environment within our zoos and around the world.

    One of the core values of the Association of Zoological Horticulture (AZH) is conservation of rare plants and plant diversity.  This commitment to plant conservation through the AZH Plant Conservation Grant program began in 1992 and has awarded over $475,000 to projects spanning the country and the globe.

    AZH plant conservation grants encourage plant conservation activities and partnerships within and between AZH members, member zoos and member zoo partners.  Grant monies are provided through the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF), AZH member donations, and auction proceeds from annual conferences. AZH Plant Conservation Grants are awarded for both in-situ and ex-situ plant conservation work.

    Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020-2021 AZH Plant Conservation grant program!

    Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden

    Establishment of a community-based tree nursery for landscape enrichment and community engagement in the buffer zone of a newly established 2000-acre reserve in the Guatemalan Dry Forest 

    San Diego Zoo

    California Native Oak Conservation 

    Atlanta Botanical Garden 

    Seedbanking Georgia’s critically imperiled native plant species on the Chattahoochee Oconee National Forest 

    Naples Botanical Garden 

    Building Capacity for Conservation of Native Trees and Shrubs in Puerto Rico

    Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

    Advancing Cryobiotechnology Research, Networking, and Information Sharing for Oak Conservation

    The Association of Zoological Horticulture is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the advancement of zoo horticulture in zoological parks, gardens, and aquariums. AZH works to highlight the importance of plants within zoos and aquariums, and seeks to support the horticulturists who work in a zoological setting.

  • November 30, 2020 11:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Halloween may be over, but common fungal diseases on tropical plants ensure that spooky season never ends in our interior exhibits. According to the Ohio State University fact sheet on the topic, fungal diseases wreak more havoc on plants than any other group of plant pest or pathogen. Estimates hover around 85% of plant diseases are caused by fungal agents. The spores and hyphae of these mysterious, understudied organisms are lurking in your water, soil and air, waiting to strike like the masked psycho in a horror movie.

    The very lack of what we understand about the Kingdom Fungi can make management difficult, however. They obtain nutrients by sending thread-like filaments throughout their food sources – you, me, a loaf of bread, your favorite plants, your jack o’lantern. They often hang around dead and decaying things (spooooky!) but not always. Sometimes they are straight-up evil parasites of living things. But, of course, evil is in the eye of the beholder – in this case, the beholder is the zoo horticulturist attempting to protect their tropical collections from the undead fungal hordes. Nevertheless, we should never forget the beneficial fungi that collaborate in vast mycorrhizal support systems for plant communities, as well as the yeasts that make sourdough bread and beer possible.

    But we are here today to discuss the villains! Below are some of the common symptoms of fungal infections in interior plantscapes:

    Leaf spots – Leaf spots are indicative of several different fungal species. Look for roughly circular tan/ reddish brown spots, concentric rings and small black fruiting bodies. If infection progresses, lesions may join together, killing off the growing tip or spread to branches of plants.

    Powdery mildew – Powdery mildew is not just one but several fungal species. What starts as powdery spots on upper leaf surface can join together to cover the entire leaf. Powdery mildew is often found in temperate, humid climate conditions - temperatures above 86 do not support powdery mildew.

    Stem canker – This infection is similar to an abscess- dark and mushy spots on stem. If an infection gets this far, the plant is usually not salvageable.

    Black sooty mold – This fungus looks as grimy as a Victorian street urchin. Black sooty mold grows on the honeydew exudate of aphids, scale, and other sap-suckers. That high sugar content encourages the growth of black sooty mold. If the mold gets heavy enough, it can shade out the plant and stunt its growth. The horticulturist’s first response is to take care of the insect pest, which removes the source of the problem.

    If fungal infections were like a horror movie, they would be like “The Thing”, starting off with small, seemingly innocuous symptoms but slowly infiltrating the plant completely and consuming it from the inside out. But unlike “The Thing”, the wise horticulturist does not need to blow up an entire Antarctic field station to contain the damage. Prevention and speedy diagnosis, as always, are going to be the most effective way to keep your plants healthy. Keep in mind that spores can live a long time and be carried by air currents, water, soil, tools and clothing, so our mantra for fungi should be “CONSTANT VIGILANCE” (shout-out to Mad-Eye Moody!).

    • Include fungal symptoms in scouting regimen
    • Check new plants for symptoms before installation
    • Sanitize tools and containers regularly
    • Eliminate cracks/ drafts if you suspect diseases are coming in from outer environment
    • If fungal diseases are a significant and ongoing issue in your exhibit, consider resistant plant varieties
    • May need lab analysis to pinpoint exact pathogen – most symptoms can be caused by wide array of fungal species

    The next best way to manage fungal infections is to focus on plant health care and adjusting conditions to be better for plants, but worse for fungi. In the horror movie realm, this would be analogous to if you never build a summer camp, you are less likely to get a masked murderer hanging around.

    • Reduce overall humidity
    • Water early in the day to allow plant surfaces to dry
    • Water to avoid wetness on surface of leaves, reduce overhead watering – dry leaves are less supportive of fungi. At Butterfly Pavilion, we often syringe our tropical exhibit for pest management, but we’ve gotten more focused over the years, so that we aren’t indiscriminately wetting leaf surfaces.
    • Increase air circulation through strategic pruning and thinning.
    • Remove debris from the ground regularly.
    • Follow a balanced fertility program to avoid too much or too little of key plant nutrients
    • Avoid wounding or stressing plant material as much as possible.

    If cultural methods are not effective, you may want to consider the ultimate in physical methods – removing the infected plant entirely from the exhibit before it can be a source of new infections. Fortunately, you’ll have better luck with plants than in most horror movie franchises; those monsters just keep returning and returning!

    Chemical controls can used to protect new tissue, but keep in mind that nothing can be done about the old infected tissue. Chemical fungicides, just like any chemical tool, require caution. Different fungicides are effective against different species of fungus, so checking the label is key. Fungicides can be irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory system, while chronic exposure may lead to negative health effects on the nervous system. Also, runoff and contamination, if it reaches the outside world, can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems and other organisms. For example, copper sulfate has been shown to have a negative effect on bees. Now that’s the real horror story!

    Amy Yarger, Horticulture Director at Butterfly Pavilion

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