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  • May 26, 2020 11:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our Mangrove propagules are well on their way, happy and healthy, and ready for transplanting. There are over 1000, all from propagules collected here at The Florida Aquarium. We were scheduled for a planting at Veterans Park in St. Petersburg, Florida this month in partnership with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and St. Pete College.

    Also a second planting was tentative for mid May with the City of Tampa and Tree Inc. Both are on hold, with no set date for a definite reschedule. The St. Pete event is holding July 11th as a possibility only at this point. The Florida Aquarium did have to suspend our most recent internship program as well during this current Covid 19 situation. Our Horticulture intern was slated to have this as part of her required project, and she hopes to return as an Aquarium volunteer when things are back to normal to help continue this project.

    Mangrove propagule propagation area

    To date we have spent: $1046.42 of the $2000 grant. We do not plan to spend more until or unless this project is confirmed that is can be completed as intended. We will look for alternatives if needed. That being said, is the Committee assessing current Zoological circumstances and allowing for alternatives to the utilization of funds, or a facilities ability to complete their projects as intended?

    Thank you again for the opportunity of receiving this grant.

    Stephen Schwanebeck


  • May 21, 2020 11:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ex-situ conservation of four ‘new’ and unprotected plant species at Parc Ivoloina, central-eastern Madagascar

    Summary Progress report for the Association of Zoological Horticulture

    May 2020

    In January 2020, Missouri Botanical Garden, on behalf of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group, was awarded $7470 for a project that aimed to conserve ex-situ, as growing plants at Parc Ivoloina, four newly discovered Malagasy plants known only from unprotected forests that are high threatened.  The four target species include: a species of Polyscias (Araliaceae), a species of Astrocassine (Celastraceae), a species of Rhopalocarpus (Sphaerosepalaceae), and a species of Vitex (Lamiaceae). These plants were located during previous fieldwork in the Ivoloina and Ifontsy River valleys, close to Parc Ivoloina, but, at that time, seeds were not available and the plants were not propagated.  To achieve the stated objective we will implement four main activities: 1) relocation and flagging of the target species in the wild by an experienced botanist; 2) identification of reliable local people who will be trained to monitor the phenology of the target species and to collect vouchered samples of mature seeds as these became available for dispatch to Parc Ivoloina; 3) accession and propagation of the seed samples at the native plant nursery at Parc Ivoloina; 4) plantation of the resultant plants within the Parc ensuring each plant is permanently tagged with its accession number.

    The field botanist identified for the first of these tasks was Patrice Antilahimena.  He was selected because he had been part of the team that had originally discovered these plants and thus knew them well.  Patrice has been working for 2 years in this area, is known and trusted by local people and knows which people could be reliably tasked to monitor phenology of the target plants and to collect seed samples.  Unfortunately, Patrice did not become available for this work until February 2020 and therefore his first fieldtrip for this project was in March 2020.  This trip coincided with the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Madagascar but despite this Patrice was able to relocate the first of the target species: the presumed Astrocassine.  Patrice also selected a local person to monitor the phenology of the plant and collect mature seeds.  On 15th May 2020, Platini, the nurserymen at Parc Ivoloina received a seed sample consisting of 206 seeds of this species.  These seeds have now been sown.

    Unfortunately, the end of Patrice’s fieldtrip coincided with restrictions on movement imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Madagascar, and consequently he was forced to delay his return home for a few days – leading to some extra expenditure on hotels and meals.  The situation in Madagascar with respect to the pandemic is obscure: until recently the State reported few cases and no deaths but, at the time of writing, many more cases are being reported and there have been two COVID-19 related deaths.  Many of the newly reported cases are Tamatave, the major town close to Parc Ivoloina and therefore travel in this part of the country have been severely restricted.  Consequently, at the moment, there can be no fieldwork in this area until the pandemic is under control and travel restrictions within Madagascar are lifted.  It is not possible to predict when these conditions will exist.  Whatever is next, it is certain that the implementation of this project will be much delayed.

    In conclusion to date this project has successfully sampled seeds from one of the four target species, but the timetable for work on the other species is uncertain.

    Young fruit of the possible “new” species of Astrocassine

    Seed sample of the supposed new species of Astrocassine received at Parc Ivoloina 15 May 2020

  • May 05, 2020 12:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With our upcoming AZA accreditation, I took it upon myself to review and update our Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)/Safety Data Sheet (SDS) paperwork for the Horticulture department. I have had some really good ideas in my life, but this was not one of them. In reviewing the existing books, I found chemicals that we no longer use, found SDSs dating back in the ’90s and found more than a few roach egg casings. We had more than 250 SDSs to review. This was looking like an incredibly dumb idea. But who better to organize these than the OCD curator? Again, not my best idea.

                So, my first move was to rip (literally) the pages out of the book. And I gotta tell you that it felt really really good. We hadn’t used some of those papers in three decades. I then started printing out all new SDSs.

                After I printed out all new and updated SDSs, I noticed that not all SDSs are the same. My question is, why the heck not? We put men on the moon and can’t use one format for SDSs? So, I am going to review my process and let you know what I learned from this “project.” This is for your own good. Pay attention.

    • 1.      Never volunteer for this project.
    • 2.      If you are volunteered for this, say no, unless it is under threat of firing.
    • 3.      If you volunteer for this project, you are insane and deserve what you get.
    • 4.      Make sure you have an updated chemical list in your chemical shed (or locker, shoebox, trunk of your car, etc.).
    • 5.      Also keep a digital copy safe in the 10,000 files you are already keeping safe.
    • 6.      Make sure the SDS you are searching for matches the actual chemical you have. A lot of different companies make horticultural oil but match it to what you have (a huge pain in the buttocks).
    • 7.      Cross reference the EPA # and make sure they match.
    • 8.      Try to find the most updated copy (harder than it sounds and, again, buttocks are involved).
    • 9.      Don’t do what I did, which was print out more than 200 SDSs only to be told by my administrative assistant that she also needs a complete copy for her office AND I needed to download those copies onto a jump drive so she can update our online SDS database which was out of date.
    • 10.  Remember all those sheets I ripped out of the book with wild abandon? Well, now OSHA requires you to keep SDSs for 30 years. Who the heck knew that!? If you raise your hand, I will smack you at the next conference.
    • 11.  Keep all outdated SDSs, fool.

    • 12.  Keep a table of contents.
    • 13.  So, not only do I have two notebooks (A–L and M–Z).

                I also have an obsolete notebook of chemicals we no longer use, per OSHA—although I think I will have to change the title.

                That is actually a good idea, I just wished I had known that in paragraph two.

                So, it took me two weeks to do this project and I have aged five years. There is a ton of online data about keeping records and MSDSs. I Googled “saving MSDSs”

    and there were 3,690,000 documents. I read four. I recommend www.msdsonline.com/. It’s the rule, guys. Catch it before they catch you!

                So, this month’s word of advice: don’t volunteer, but if you do get stuck with this project, find someone on light duty… Good luck!

    ’Til next time.

    Denise Rogers

  • March 29, 2020 8:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

         The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has issued an alert to a new pest recently discovered near Bellingham, Washington: the Asian giant hornet. It is not yet known how widely this introduce species has spread. Please take extra care when working outdoors this year.

         Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornet species. They attack most insects, but prefer honeybees and can kill entire hives. A few hornets can destroy a hive in a matter of hours by entering a "slaughter phase" where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, taking the brood to feed their own young. They also attack other insects but are not known to destroy entire populations of those insects. They have also been known to feed on fruit.

         Unlike most wasps and hornets, the Asian giant hornet nests in the ground. This species also poses a human health threat because their venom is more toxic than that of any local bees or wasps and can be deadly if one is stung more than once. Learn more about them at agr.wa.gov/hornets.

         Special precautions for pesticide applicators and pest control companies:

         • When working outdoors, keep an eye out for Asian giant hornets. If you see any, please report them (with a photograph if you can get one safely) at agr.wa.gov/hornets. or your state agriculture department.

         • DO NOT approach Asian giant hornets if you see them. They can sting through normal clothing as well as typical beekeeping attire.

         • Take extra care not to step on an Asian giant hornet nest. Asian giant hornets prefer nesting in wooded locations in the ground, but also have been known to nest in rotted tree trunks near the ground and—rarely—in human habitations.

         • Repeated stings from an Asian giant hornet can kill you. If you receive multiple Asian giant hornet stings, seek medical attention immediately.

         • If you are contacted by the public to remove an Asian giant hornet nest, contact your state department of agriculture. The WSDA has obtained special equipment for the safe removal of Asian giant hornet nests. Attempting to remove an Asian giant hornet nest without proper safety equipment could prove deadly.

         Report Asian giant hornet sightings at:



         • 800/443-6684

         The original version of this article was sent to pesticide operators in Washington state. It has been edited it for the AZH Blog. Additional information about the Asian giant hornet and descriptions of more common hornets can be found at agr.wa.gov/hornets.

    Katrina Lindahl, Woodland Park Zoo

  • February 26, 2020 11:49 AM | Deleted user


    I hope that the new year and decade has brought a renewed declaration for the passion we all feel for our work and institutions. What about AZH?  I am excited to share the large amount of work that has been happening over the last 5 months and how these efforts can offer you helpful resources, opportunities to get involved, and ways to impact your own zoo and aquarium horticulture programs.

    Planning for the 2020 AZH “Art in the Garden” conference in Denver is well underway.  Denver Zoo is thrilled to host this year’s event and we are working hard, together with several of the committees, to offer a robust and thought provoking experience! Not to mention…having some fun in the Mile High city while we’re at it.  The Call for Presentations is live on the website.  Presenting is great way of sharing your challenges and insights relating to your world inside zoos and aquariums.  Our program is only as good as the presenters who make it!

    Look for updates throughout the next few months: https://azh.org/Conference

    During last year’s conference, I presented the drafted 2020-2025 strategic plan for the association.  Attendees participated in live action survey during the sessions to offer feedback to the board on the plan and the requested priority of focus and importance.  We have used that feedback to adjust the plan a bit and the board has approved the plan!  We will be working with every committee to implement the new plan over the next 5 years through a variety of action items for improved and new programs to offer.  This is an exciting plan and underscores the need for increased participation from our members so that we may better support each by reaching the goals of the plan. 

    There have also been a large amount of board member changes and motions carried recently.  The offices of the Vice President and the Treasurer are currently vacant.  For reasons of career shifts, we received resignations from the past serving officers, but I am excited for both of them in their new endeavors.  I would like to thank both Kaaren Pearce and John Murgel for their commitment and service to this organization!! They will be missed. Please contact the Nominations Committee with your interest in running for the board this year. Serving on the AZH Board of Directors is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience!

    Happy Upcoming Spring!

  • February 16, 2020 12:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2019 AZH Internship Grant Project


    The 2019 AZH internship program fund was used in support of the Project and Site Design Internship at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. It funded a special project that represented a joint effort between the intern and several departments of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - including Planning & Design, Horticulture, Animal Nutrition (Browse Program), Animal Health, and Animal Care.

    Project Background

    The Columbus Zoo is structured such that Capital Improvement Projects are managed by the Planning and Design Department. Once a project is completed, installed landscapes are managed by the Horticulture Department. The Horticulture Department maintains all existing landscapes both within and outside of the animal habitats throughout the Zoo. The Browse Program utilizes these landscapes as well as browse collected off-site and the program is based within the Animal Nutrition Department. These three departments (Planning and Design, Horticulture, and Animal Nutrition) all communicate with the Animal Health Department to gain approval to add new plants to the Browse List or to install landscape plants not yet reviewed for toxicity. While all four of these departments communicate with one another on daily needs, the rapid growth of the zoo and daily demands have offered little overlap in shared resources. In the few times a plant has been suspect in an Animal Health concern, the four departments have scrambled to collect relevant landscape history. This project was designed in part to help streamline the action response process in the event of a plant-based Animal Health concern.

    Project Statement

    The purpose of the project was threefold: First, to identify and consolidate historical planting information for every region of the zoo and document it in a single place. Second, to compare these findings to current plant selection and plant toxicity policies. And third, to outline a new policy governing plant specification and selection for internal use, but also for design consultant use.

    Project Outcome

    The final outcome of the project resulted in a working document that will be used as a resource for select members of the involved departments. The document is designed to be a common resource in the event of a plant related question or incident. It was decided that while this document should be easily accessible, the information should not be made public to all zoo employees, given the nuances of plant identification and plant toxicity, in addition to the variable influx of new scientific knowledge. Because of the fluctuating nature of scientific discoveries and the quasi-temporary nature of the zoological landscape, the document will stay in a “working” form to assimilate the ever-changing information that drives zoological and horticulture best practices. 

    The document categorizes and lists past plantings by zoo region. In addition to the historical and current species lists, there is an approved browse list and a “Do Not Plant” list. The browse list is overseen and periodically updated by Animal Nutrition. The “Do Not Plant” list includes plants that are known to be toxic and/or invasive species in the State of Ohio. The list also notes species that are considered to be undesirable by the zoo’s standards due to their maintenance needs or performance issues. An example of an undesirable plant type is running bamboo. Its inclusion is based on its aggressive spreading habits which have caused maintenance issues in the past.

    Further Insights

    Interdepartmental discourse played a key role during the course of the project. The project generated discussion about implementing a biannual meeting between the departments to share new knowledge related to browse and plant toxicity. This meeting would serve to insure that the document would be revisited and updated. 

    While reviewing the historical plant lists it was interesting but not surprising to find species such as Lonicera maackii (honeysuckle) and Berberis thunbergii (Barberry) included in plans drafted during the 1990s. This discovery generated further discussion about the role that invasive plants play in the zoo. It can be a challenging task to balance the zoo’s aesthetic, browse, and animal health needs in regards to horticulture. 

    The tension between plant performance and ecological standards is well documented and presents a conundrum for zoo design and maintenance. When undesirable species play functional roles well, addressing this paradox is a complex task. For example, in the mid-west, the invasive plant such as bush honeysuckle (L. maackii) leafs out early and holds its leaves late into autumn, and grows well in shady conditions. Due to these characteristics, it performs as an optimal screening plant. While not intentionally planted in the past 20 years, local wildlife disperses its seeds, and we find honey suckle growing up under evergreen trees planted with the intention to hide views. Keeping these plants in check throughout the zoo’s buffer areas is not always easy due to the size of the grounds and the availability of resources and staff. While the removal of these plants is a priority (due to their invasive status), many times they play critical roles in screening both undesirable views and back of house areas (adding to the experiential nature of the zoo), as well as acting as a buffer between animal habitats contributing to the animals health through sense of safety and privacy. Eradicating honey suckle often means an equally strong performing screening plant must be purchased to continue to screen unwanted views.

    Another example of this issue is the presence of thistle in the lion habitat. Part of the habitat is defined by steep earthen slopes which are eroding due to original plant failure. Thistle has established itself on the slopes and its root systems are now acting as slope stabilizers. This mitigates erosion and also prevents the zoo from having to replace the slopes with an expensive and undesirable concrete wall. Management plans are in place to prevent the thistle from spreading, but full-on removal would compromise the slope’s integrity.  An untraditional management plan is being discussed to manage thistle (do not permit to go to flower) until other more desirable plants can be established and the thistle removed.

    These issues, while not the focus of the project, are brought forward to illustrate the complexity of horticulture within the zoo, as well as the importance of communication between departments in an effort to work more collaboratively.


    We are very grateful to the AZH for funding this project. The document that was produced will greatly benefit multiple departments at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The working document, when deployed in conjunction with other sources and staff expertise, will serve to further improve interdepartmental connection - something we believe to be a priority and an asset. Overall the project created healthy discussions centered around practical horticulture and design policy. More specifically, the project illuminated the benefit of cross departmental dialogue in respect to horticultural practice. 

    If you have any questions related to the project, we welcome you to reach out to us. It is our hope that the collaborative nature of this undertaking will extend to other zoos as well. 

    Stoyan Iordanov - Horticulture Manager

    Karen Schenk - Director of Project and Site Design, Landscape Architect -Karen.Schenk@columbuszoo.org

    Jonathan Stechschulte - Project Intern

  • February 12, 2020 8:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Spider mites, (Family Tetranychidae, Order Acari), are not insects; they are from insect hell and are very small arachnids closely related to spiders and ticks. Among plant pests, mites are among the most difficult to control, and are responsible for a significant portion of all pesticides used on ornamentals. Individual spider mites are almost microscopic, yet when they occur in large numbers, they can cause serious plant damage. Once present, spider mites are seldom eradicated, and are almost undetectable even by the best of scouts.

                Spider mites that commonly cause damage on ornamental plants include the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae Koch. There are other speices, but I want to pick on this little beast.

                The life cycle of the two-spotted spider mite is typical of warm weather spider mites, including the tumid spider mite. At 85–90 degrees F, complete development from egg to adult can occur in as little as seven to eight days. That is a lot of young’uns. All life stages may be present throughout the year, depending on the weather. When temperatures are cooler, development may proceed more slowly, requiring up to four weeks for completion. Still, that is still a lot of young’uns. Host plant species, plant nutrition, leaf age, and moisture stress also influence development. Many generations occur each year, depending on the species of spider mite. For those of us who have temperature-controlled greenhouses or conservatories, the spider mite can be a year-round problem. On a scale of 1 to 10, I find managing these little monsters about a 9.9. The problem is scouting. Young eyes, old eyes, it doesn’t matter.

                Adult female two-spotted spider mites are about 0.5 mm long, light green with two brownish black spots on either side of the abdomen. Color will vary according to diet and environmental conditions. Males have pointed abdomens and are more slender than the rounded and plump females. Now, personally, I have never been able to tell the girls from the boys, they are equally hateful. Females lay between 90 and 110 eggs during their lifetime. Eggs hatch into six-legged larvae, which then develop into protonymphs, followed by the deutonymph stage prior to adulthood. Yada, yada, yada. Now, personally, I can locate mites or damage easily with or without a hand lens. Yet, I can show the exact same leaf to someone else and I get the look like… “What?!”

    Know your bugs fool. It may be the difference in this:

    To this:

    I mean really guys; how do you not see this?

                Under hot, dry conditions, two-spotted spider mites thrive: more eggs are laid, development is at a higher rate, and survival of adults is extended. Conditions of high moisture are known to slow the dispersal of mites.

                So, what to do about this pesky critter? The problem is, there is never just one. One day you see nothing and the next day your plant is covered in webbing and you stand there wondering what the heck just happened and contemplating a new job. Been there, done that. I know bugs, but how did you sneak in?

                Growth is slowed with higher humidity, so syringing is a great option. I love to blast those devils, and, in my case, I find it fairly successful. I use little to no chemicals, so scouting is a must. Hand picking leaves, syringing, applying beneficials (I like Phytoseiulus persimilis), culling, praying, cussing are all valuable tools in controlling these creatures.

                And believe me, if you can survive a greenhouse covered in webbing and mites and live to tell the tale, you can handle anything! Well, maybe not thrips.

    Until next time...

    By Denise Rogers, Curator of Horticutlure, North Carolina Zoo

  • January 07, 2020 11:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    SePPCon 2020 will be held at The Southeastern Center for Conservation at Atlanta Botanical Garden the week of March 2 – 6, 2020. 

    Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation will bring together government agencies, land managers, botanical gardens, university programs, experts, professionals, and other interested parties to build capacity and promote novel partnerships for plant conservation in the Southeast. Working with a wide range of stakeholders that represent diverse interests and perspectives, this effort seeks to stimulate collective successes in local, state, and regional plant conservation.

    SePPCon 2020 sets the stage for success by promoting models of success and creative solutions to conservation challenges and builds on the success of the inaugural SePPCon 2016 Conference.  For more information and to register, visit - https://atlantabg.org/conservation-research/outreach-education-and-training/southeastern-partners-in-plant-conservation/

  • November 17, 2019 10:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Original printing in 1988

    by Chuck Rogers Curator of Horticulture (Retired)

    Zoological Society of Philadelphia

    "What's a nice horticulturist like you doing in a zoo?" might be a subtitle for this paper about zoos and zoo horticulture.  For many years, the zoo gardener was thought of as a person who cut grass, trimmed hedges, and pulled weeds whether employed by the zoo or the Public Parks Department. Their role was only cosmetic to make the appearance of the zoo acceptable.

    As zoos shifted their approach from barred, bare cages to exhibits and natural living habitats, the need for more landscape design, especially within habitats, changed the role of the gardener from merely maintenance to an active participant in the exhibit and natural habitat process.  Where were the resources for this new horticultural direction? Few, if any, books or articles were available in the 1960's and 1970's. Rarely was zoo horticulture a topic at zoo conferences and no network of professional zoo gardeners was in place. Some form of communication between zoo gardeners and horticulturists was needed to exchange success in the use of plant material in habitats; to compare what plants do well in tropical habitats; and to discuss toxic plants. The only communication between zoo horticulturists was developed among several friends over the years. The big question among zoos and zoo horticulturists was where to get information and from whom.

    Recognizing the need, the Philadelphia Zoo organized and sponsored a conference to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in August 1980 to address the growing importance of horticulture in zoos. The title chosen was the 1st International Conference for Zoo Horticulture and the intended purpose was as follows:  The purpose of the Conference for Zoo Horticulture is to explore ways that a more enlightened approach can be planned to promote the necessary partnership of horticulture and zoology. The exchange of ideas, experiences, and knowledge in a gathering of persons of like training and interest is one of the most effective ways to communicate these ideas.

    The conference was convened with 30 full-time delegates and 15 part-time delegates. Participants came from 18 American zoos, Kuwait, and Nigeria; truly an international conference from the beginning. Paper sessions included topics on grasses and bamboo, native American plants, tropical plants, plants for animal habitats, browse programs, and a most enlightening one on plant toxicity. Field trips to rare botanical institutions included the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Henry Foundation, and Longwood Gardens; introducing delegates to new plants and new ideas for landscape design. The conference was a great success with many lasting friendships developed through the experience and knowledge gained during the conference.

    The conference would not have been as successful without the support of Ernie Chew of San Diego Zoo, Steve Wachter of Minnesota State Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, and others. Thursday evening's session was listed on the program as, "Wrap-Up Session Where Does Zoo Horticulture Go From Here?" Results of that evening session was the formation of the Association of Zoological Horticulture, an organization dedicated to the promotion of horticulture as an integral part of zoo design; to support and promote the conservation of endangered species as well as endangered habitats; to hold an international conference annually for the sharing of new ideas and information about plants and their role in zoos; to publish a newsletter; and to promote zoo horticulture as a profession.

    Selected to form an organizing committee responsible for the direction and management of the Association until the next conference when the first election of officers would be held and the bylaws enacted were Chuck Rogers, Philadelphia Zoo conference host; Craig Carpenter, North Carolina State Zoo; and Steve Wachter, Minnesota State Zoo.

    In the ensuing ten years since the Philadelphia Conference, the Association has prospered holding annual conferences in the United States, Canada, and England.  Individual membership has grown to more than ZOO members from 10 countries; institutional and professional membership categories have been included; summer internships have been sponsored; conference proceedings, research studies, and surveys have been published; a seeds and source exchange program has been very popular; and a newsletter is published regularly.

    Perhaps the most important and lasting results of the AZH is the lasting personal contacts. Networking is the phrase that best sums it up. A network of friends of like training and interests. A friend you can call for a new plant material or seed sources, for advice on which plants and under what conditions they have grown in an animal exhibit, or what techniques are used to protect trees from the claws of lions and tigers or the chewing of hoofed stock. A network is a place where you can talk out your frustrations, complain, celebrate, or just relax knowing you have others who know and understand your problems.

    Mark Fleming, past treasurer and president of AZH, said in his closing remarks at the Tucson conference, "I am tired from a busy season, worn out from the drought, weary of the problems associated .with zoo horticulture, just sort of down. Then comes the AZH conference. A time and place for learning, sharing information, and relaxing with friends. Why do I come? I come to get pumped up, to renew my enthusiasm, and to get ready for the next year."  What better testimonial can an organization have? AZH is a network, a group of friends, a source of information and encouragement, and a group dedicated to conserving endangered species and habitats.  

    After many years of practicing horticulture as a profession, I can safely say, "A nice horticulturist like you does belong in a zoo." May I end by paraphrasing a favorite poem (with proper apologies to Joyce Kilmer, of course).


    Of all the things that I might be,

    I had to be a lousy tree.

    A tree that grows out in the yard

    With little lions 'round my feet.

    I lift my leafy arms to pray,

    Go 'way little lions, go 'way.

    Nest of birds I must wear

    And what they do gets in my hair.

    I'm nothing else but this, alas,

    A comfort station in the grass.

    Of all the things that I might be

    I had to be a damned zoo tree.

  • October 02, 2019 4:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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.

    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 $450,000 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.

    2019 AZH Plant Conservation grant recipients:

    Creation of biological corridors utiliziing family plots, for the conservation of Abronia campbelli - Oklahoma City Zoo

    The Foundation for the Conservation of Endangered species of Guatemala (FUNDESQUA) now in partnership with the Oklahoma City Zoo and International Reptile Conservation Foundation (IRCF), began a long-term conservation program in 2001 called “Conservation Heloderma” and in 2009 “Conservation Abronia”. Both programs incorporate field research, public education, local community capacity building and habitat protection and restoration.

    Campbell’s alligator lizard (Abronia campbelli) which is considered the most threatened Abronia species in Guatemala and thus the world. Campbell’s alligator lizard is critically endangered due to the decline in extent and quality of habitat, as a direct result of land-use change for agriculture and livestock.  We believe that the most successful conservation programs are voluntary and locally driven, so our project focuses on the intertwining and compatibility of biodiversity protection, with the livelihoods of the local populace; resulting in long-term sustainable conservation.

    This projects main goals and objectives are to protect and extend the habitat available for A. campbelli, with the creation of biological corridors utilizing privately owned, small land-holdings (currently used for subsistence agriculture) of 100 families. These corridors will be developed by planting live fences with key forest species. To achieve this goal, we will have community-based activities within the habitat of A. campbelli and in our nursery, to not only develop the technical skills needed by the community but also to develop a new way of interacting with nature that culminates in a culture oriented towards the conservation of biodiversity.

    Unlocking the secrets to germinating our more challenging rare species of South Florida’s Pine Rocklands and sharing this information with the conservation community - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

     The Pine Rocklands of South Florida are a critically imperiled habitat due to rapid urban expansion. Only 2% of the original habitat remain today outside of Everglades National Park, and it is heavily fragmented. To safeguard genetic diversity and for use in future restoration projects, seeds from a variety of species are regularly collected and stored at the seed lab of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG). There, we conduct germination trials to assess seed viability, dormancy breaking methods, and the potential for long-term storage of seeds. Additionally, FTBG’s Connect to Protect Network (CTPN) aims to increase the connectivity of this fragmented habitat by distributing plants to private homeowners and public lands. With membership numbers rising, the demand of plants is growing proportionately. CTPN members and FTBG partners increasingly request information about how to best propagate Pine Rockland species.

    Goals for this project include:1.) Develop and optimize seed propagation methods for five of the following species (depending on seed availability) to increase production numbers and make them available for CTPN members and the public: Bourreria cassinifolia, Guettarda scabra, Centrosema virginianum, Ipomoea tenuissima, Melanthera parvifolia, Metastelma blodgettii, Dalea carnea, Croton linearis, and Koanophyllon villosum. 2.) Write propagation protocols for at least 20 Pine Rockland plants and a how-to guide explaining the different seed dormancy breaking methods. Both will be made publicly available, particularly for AZH and CTPN members. 3.) Compile seed storage behavior information based on data from the seed lab of FTBG and make it available for other institutions.

    Expand capacity and programming for Florida Mangrove Conservation – The Florida Aquarium

    Since 2016, we have provided around about 2000 established Red Mangrove seedlings to environmental conservation efforts and shared them with other AZH and AZA membership institutions. Our goal now is to expand our efforts and provide White and Black Mangrove seedlings.

    Mangroves are a keystone species for ocean shorelines. They are vital to our ecosystem by providing habitat at every level; from fish nurseries and shoreline erosion control with their root system, midlevel habitat to crabs, snails, and even the mangrove snake, and their canopy providing nesting for many species of shoreline birds and many significances beyond this.

    Staff will collect seed from established mangroves near our Aquarium property in areas that we provide volunteer clean-up efforts to then grow in seed trays and or / purchase started White and Black Mangrove seedlings from Sandhill Growers to grow out further to a size suitable for transplanting in to the environment. We will raise them in our Aquarium nursery and then transport them to restoration events where we will also provide the volunteer labor to plant them.

    Ex-situ conservation of four ‘new’ and unprotected plant species at Parc Ivoloina - Naples Zoo/Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group

    The purpose is to prevent the extinction of four newly discovered Malagasy plants and conserve them ex-situ as 100 growing plants in Parc Ivoloina. These species are currently known only from small, unprotected forest fragments that are likely to be destroyed in the next decade.  The four are a species of Polyscias (Araliaceae), Astrocassine (Celastraceae), Rhopalocarpus (Sphaerosepalaceae), and Vitex (Lamiaceae). Chris Birkinshaw, Missouri Botanical Garden’s technical advisor in Madagascar, will lead the work. He has a Doctorate in tropical ecology, is based full-time in Madagascar where he has worked for MBG since 1996.

    Project activities include:  Apply for permits to collect vouchered seed samples, field trips to relocate and flag individuals and to train local assistants to monitor and collect ripe seeds, local assistants track phenology of target species,  collect ripe seeds when they occur, and dispatch seed samples to Parc Ivoloina, propagation of seeds at Parc Ivoloina, label seedlings and plant out into Parc Ivoloina at locations where they can grow to maturity.  Some plants will be planted in association with the captive lemur collections and here they will be provided with an interpretive sign, nurture and monitor plants and ultimately use in forest restoration endeavors.

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