Log in

AZH Newsletter

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • October 29, 2023 2:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Reprinted from BGCI Cultivate #121 October 2023

    In an era marked by global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and habitat degradation, the conservation of endangered endemic plants has become a pressing concern. Eye on the Rainforest, an organization in Puerto Rico, has joined forces with Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) to address this issue. Their collaborative efforts are focused on the preservation of precious endemic plant species found in Puerto Rico. Eye on the Rainforest plays a vital role in connecting visitors with nature, while highlighting their collaboration with BGCI in the conservation of these botanical treasures.

    Connecting Visitors with Nature: Eye on the Rainforest, though not officially certified as a botanical garden, stands as an enchanting haven for visitors, captivating them with its breathtaking natural beauty and rich biodiversity. The organization’s immersive trails and cultivated gardens provide a unique opportunity for individuals to establish a profound connection with Puerto Rico’s exceptional endemic plant species. By showcasing the remarkable diversity of the island’s flora, Eye on the Rainforest nurtures a deep-seated understanding and appreciation for Puerto Rico’s ecological heritage.

    Educational Outreach and Interpretation: To effectively convey the urgency of conserving endemic plants, Eye on the Rainforest employs a comprehensive array of educational outreach and interpretation strategies. Workshops, lectures, and informative signage serve as powerful tools to enlighten visitors about the ecological significance of plant species and the challenges they face. Collaborating with BGCI provides Eye on the Rainforest access to invaluable resources, online info, and global expertise, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information is shared with visitors. Invitation to speak at botanical conferences has helped to highlight the work being done, and helped generate confidence that it matters. By promoting awareness and understanding, the organization empowers visitors to actively contribute to the preservation of Puerto Rico’s unique botanical heritage.


    Endangered Endemics Nursery


    Experiential Learning: Recognizing the transformative power of experiential learning, Eye on the Rainforest engages visitors in hands-on activities such as seed or seedling collection, propagation, plant awareness workshops, nursery-work, and habitat restoration projects. Currently volunteers have been working on a landslide mitigation project, understanding the power of the volume of water that flowed over the land in 2022 Hurricane Fiona and for 5 weeks after. They have been actively handling and planting Vetiver, (Chrysopogon zizanioides), a deep-rooted grass plant, on slope edges and sun-tolerant seedlings of tree species such as Tabebuia heterophylla, (that also has deep taproots), directly into the open gash of the landslide. These tangible experiences allow individuals to become active participants in the conservation efforts on land with plants. By immersing visitors in these authentic encounters, Eye on the Rainforest fosters a sense of ownership and stewardship, inspiring visitors to become advocates for the protection of Puerto Rico’s exceptional forests and plant life.


    Landslide mitigation, planting vetiver and trees


    Conservation Partnerships: The collaborative efforts between Eye on the Rainforest and BGCI exemplify the pivotal role played by partnerships in addressing complex conservation challenges. Through this alliance, the organizations synergistically leverage their collective resources, expertise, and networks. Collaborative research initiatives, exchange of conservation strategies, and pooling of efforts bolster the long-term survival prospects of endangered endemic plants in Puerto Rico. This partnership not only strengthens the conservation efforts directed towards these plant species but also serves as a model for global cooperation in safeguarding any botanical treasures confronting the threat of extinction.


    Processing the seeds from collected fruits of endangered endemic Ravenia urbanii.


    Promoting Sustainable Gardening Practices: Eye on the Rainforest recognizes the significance of promoting sustainable gardening practices beyond the boundaries of its premises. By engaging visitors and local communities through workshops and demonstrations focused on organic gardening, native plant landscaping, and sustainable water management, the organization encourages individuals to create green spaces that support local biodiversity. This holistic approach not only contributes to the conservation of endemic plants but also builds a culture of environmental stewardship.

    Creating a Botanical Team for Surveys: One noteworthy aspect of Eye on the Rainforest’s conservation efforts is the creation of a dedicated team who embark on surveys together, developing not only scientific collaboration but also cultivating enduring friendships that stretch across disciplines. These botanists, armed with their collective expertise and passion for plants, venture into the rich landscapes of Puerto Rico to document and study endemic species, including the remarkable Ravenia urbanii and Garcinia portoricensis.

    The team’s expertise crosses fields of botany, ecology, mycology, silviculture, forestry, dendrology, horticulture, plant taxonomy, farming, agronomy, botany, tropical ecology, taxonomy, bryology, arboriculture, herpetology, biology, sociology, orchidology activism, lepidopterology, lichenology, and pteridology. The arts are included as several team members are also artists and architects.


    Through their shared experiences in the field, enduring challenges, and witnessing the beauty of Puerto Rico’s flora firsthand, this team of botanists develops deep bonds of camaraderie and mutual respect. This collaborative approach not only strengthens scientific research but also promotes a sense of pride, community, and shared responsibility in safeguarding the invaluable plant biodiversity of Puerto Rico. Social media has become an important tool in drawing the public into discussion and understanding of the work being done.

    Eye on the Rainforest’s collaboration with BGCI in the conservation of endemic plant species showcases the organization’s commitment to nurturing Puerto Rico’s unique flora. The project has developed enchanting trails and gardens, promoted educational outreach, offered experiential learning opportunities, and promotion of sustainable practices. Eye on the Rainforest inspires visitors to develop an enduring affection and reverence for the island’s botanical treasures. The partnership with BGCI magnifies the impact of their conservation endeavors and reinforces the imperativeness of protecting Puerto Rico’s biodiversity; by developing profound connections between individuals and nature, Eye on the Rainforest and BGCI pave the way for a sustainable future, wherein endemic plants thrive, and the botanical heritage of Puerto Rico endures for generations to come.

    All photos By 3t Vakil, Sept 2023.

    Written by Thrity Vakil – President of Eye On The Rainforest (Las Casas de la Selva, Puerto Rico)

  • October 11, 2023 12:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From Center for Plant Conservation October 2023 Newsletter:

    Based on an Interview with Heinfried Block, Senior Plant Propagator & Adam Graves, Director of Horticulture

    Nestled between the baboons and meerkats of Africa Rocks and the gentle giants of the Elephant Odyssey, visitors of the San Diego Zoo find a haven for a different type of wildlife in the Orchid Greenhouse. Established nearly 50 years ago to celebrate orchids and their beauty, the Orchid Greenhouse has since taken an active role in global orchid conservation. With over 900 species of orchids, the Zoo’s collection is the seventh largest in North America by taxonomic diversity and the fifteenth largest in the whole world—an impressive feat!

    The Zoo’s horticulture team shows off the orchids every month at Plant Day events, inviting guests to see the world-class collection and connect with threatened plants. Every plant has a story to tell! Some of the orchids in the greenhouse came to the Zoo in an intriguing kind of rescue. Poaching is a major threat to orchids in their native habitats, where they are removed from their habitat for a variety of reasons, including ornamental use.

    Paphiopedilum armeniacum, a plant which fell prey to poachers due to its beautiful, bright yellow flower color and spectacular flowers. Seedlings of this rare plant are successfully growing in vitro at SDZWA. Photo courtesy of SDZWA.

    Orchids are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, meaning international transportation without a permit is completely illegal—but this doesn’t always stop poachers. Fortunately, as a designated Plant Rescue Center, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) is able to provide a safe environment for plants confiscated in the illegal orchid trade.

    When plants are confiscated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the country of origin is contacted to determine if they should be sent back. If the country of origin declines, the Zoo becomes caretaker for the confiscated orchids, either displaying them in the greenhouse or sending them to other Plant Rescue Centers for safekeeping. SDZWA orchid specialists propagate and grow subsequent generations of the poached orchids, which can be given to other botanical gardens for ex situ display and conservation—or, if appropriate, sold in plant sales on site. This process provides an opportunity to share a story that engages visitors with plant conservation and the plight of threatened plants. Sometimes, the plant material in the Zoo’s care may come from the last known population of a species! In the safety of the Zoo’s ex situ collection, surrounded by brilliant conservationists, material can be preserved and cared for to ensure ex situ survival, contributing towards conservation in the wild.

    Since 2015, the SDZWA horticulture team has been working on in situ conservation in orchid biodiversity hotspots. One of these is the western Pacific island country of Palau, where 80 species of native orchids can be found. Last year, SDZWA orchid experts worked with local partners to collect seed and pollen from orchids in Palau. This project, a collaborative effort with the U.S. Forest Service and the North American Orchid Conservation Center, focuses on building up local capacity for orchid conservation in Palau through micropropagation training, providing nursery supplies, and building facilities at community colleges. SDZWA hopes to become involved with IUCN conservation assessments in the region in the future to help drive conservation efforts and interest. Another region of focus for in situ work is the southwestern U.S. – a Conservation Hub, or priority region, for SDZWA. In the Southwest, SDZWA collects pollen, seed, and other biological material from native orchids like Epipactis gigantea.

    Orchids occur on every continent except Antarctica, and the SDZWA collection represents the family’s global diversity well. Heinfried Block, an orchid expert and Senior Plant Propagator at the Zoo, masterfully tackles the challenge of caring for such a vast array of orchids and enjoys taking on the more difficult-to-grow species. Propagation of orchids ex situ is a complex task, with in vitro growth demanding much expertise, knowledge, and specialized laboratory space. The SDZWA horticulture team has been remarkably successful at growing species from far and wide in the lab, covering many genera of orchids. One particularly challenging species to grow in the lab is Phragmipedium kovachii, a critically endangered Peruvian species subjected to rampant poaching in its wild populations. After receiving donated specimens of P. kovachii, SDZWA was able to successfully grow this plant from seed in the lab—an important accomplishment in the species’ conservation.

    Back at home, the Zoo’s horticulture team engages the public with yet another popular event: Plant Days. On Plant Days, horticulture staff give Botanical Bus Tours of the Zoo’s flora and give talks by their Carnivorous Plant Greenhouse. Plant sales are held outside the Orchid Greenhouse to attract the attention of visitors.

    Critically endangered Peruvian orchid Phragmipedium kovachii, one of the most sought after and prized orchids in the orchid world, resulting in population decline due to poaching. Photo courtesy of SDZWA.

    These events allow the Zoo to share about plant conservation and the Zoo’s global and local efforts. According to Adam Graves, Director of Horticulture, “When we talk about the conservation status of a lot of these plants, it’s really an eye opener for a lot of people…it’s a gateway conversation to get them more familiar with the need for plant conservation.” Plant Days help draw visitors in to learn about threatened plants. While many guests are surprised to learn about the Zoo’s vast horticultural collections, their orchid collection provides yet another surprise in the form of U.S. native orchids.

    SDZWA’s efforts to engage the public with plant conservation help visitors understand how each of them can make a positive impact. The horticulture team’s expertise with exceptional species, such as orchids, cycads, and oaks, makes this conservation niche an important focus. Future directions for the horticulture team and orchid experts include expanding further into long-term cryopreservation, ecosystem-level stories involving all species in a system, and more public-focused education programs. This broad-ranging work with threatened orchids provides a stellar example of SDZWA’s global leadership in conservation.


  • October 08, 2023 11:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In 2019, we began working with Signature School, a local charter school who’s mission is to meet the needs of self-motivated learners in a progressive environment driven by global concerns.  They emphasize rigor and excellence in academics, the arts, integrated technologies and community services.  Signature has become an integral part of the Zoo, as our botanic team engages students with horticulture projects and education that develop hands on skills and conservation knowledge. The aim is to involve students in zoological horticulture, as it relates to conserving and preserving habitats, and lessoning the impact of climate change.  Each class does a day of service work each year and we have been able to work with the Freshman class for three different years on conservation and other projects here at the zoo. 

    Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden received the AZH Wendy Andrews Cultivation Grant in 2020-21.  After delays due to COVID, we were able to move forward with this project.  We impacted 100 kids and teachers with the conservation projects planned around the zoo using the grant money.  These projects included building mason bee houses, planting 30 native trees and shrubs and adding to our browse gardens for the animals.  Several other smaller conservation projects were included to keep everyone busy.  We had a great day with the group and appreciate the opportunity given to do this project using AZH WACG funds! 

    Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden’s mission is to foster the preservation of the Earth’s diverse species and living systems through an active role in education and conservation in our regional and professional community. The Zoo connects people with the natural world by providing quality experiences that promote understanding and celebrate the rich tapestry of life.  From educational programming such as field trips, volunteer projects, and summer camps, to hosting family reunions, corporate events, and weddings, the Zoo connects with people in countless ways. The Evansville Zoological Society supports the Zoo through leadership, education, fund development, and volunteer services for the benefit of the people, plants and animals it serves.

    Misty Minar, Horticulture Manager

  • 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.

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software