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AZH Newsletter

  • March 17, 2019 9:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    AZH board member and Denver Zoo Horticulture Manager John Murgel participated in this Seed Your Future networking event in Philadelphia last week. Read about this great event to connect professionals to students and close the green collar workforce gap!


  • February 17, 2019 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    At the 2018 AZH conference in Winnipeg, Zanis Valdmanis and Benjamin Martin from the Toronto Zoo gave a presentation on making silage. Dani Ferguson and I, from the Oregon Zoo, were paying close attention, as this was something we wanted to try here. With the knowledge gained at the conference and the help of Lance Swearengin from Oklahoma City Zoo, we ventured into the world of silage. Since we didn’t start until after the conference, we had a shortened season to collect browsable material, so our trials were somewhat limited. We ended up preparing 30 barrels of silage, using a variety of plant material and a couple different methods. After much anticipation, we finally opened our first barrel last week. 

    We were very excited to see that the instructions we received worked really well; the silage looked great and had the appetizing scent of cider, it was like opening a can of summer. Anxious to see if our efforts were worth it, we traveled around our zoo and asked keepers to feed out some of the silage to all our animals that eat browse. We were thrilled to see that every animal species we gave it to really took to the silage, with just a few individual exceptions, and those animals are known picky eaters anyway.

    These efforts demonstrate the value of the AZH annual conference and membership for idea sharing. A big “Thank You” to those who shared their experiences with us so we could create browse to use during the winter season. We already are planning to prepare more silage for next year. 

    For those of you who are thinking of trying it, I encourage you to give it a shot, and add the Oregon Zoo to the list of resources who are willing to help guide you through the process. —Jeff Pera, Horticulturist Oregon Zoo


  • February 06, 2019 7:15 AM | Anonymous


    One in five plant species are at risk of extinction worldwide. Growing concerns for the loss of plant genetic diversity and species’ extinctions, as well as advancing know how to make successful conservation collections, motivates Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) Network scientists to collect seeds from wild populations and bank them.

     The great diversity of plants throughout the world helps define our sense of place and our cultural heritage. Plants have great economic value—providing food, shelter, medicine, and the basis of our livelihoods. 

     CPC Best Plant Conservation Practices to Support Species Survival in the Wild offer all of us targets we strive to hit in our plant conservation practice. We welcome you to join the conversation and to contribute to the science and to the stories about how practice improves through experience. Please contact the Center for Plant Conservation at info@saveplants.org."

     Read more: https://saveplants.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/CPCbest-plant-conservation-practices.pdf

  • January 23, 2019 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Features include requirements, salary information, educational links and videos of more than 90 careers working with plants.
    MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (January 23, 2019) – Today, Seed Your Future, the horticulture industry-wide effort to promote horticulture and inspire more people to pursue careers working with plants, has launched its new free online horticulture career exploration resource. Much more than a basic alphabetical list of the almost 100 careers in the horticulture industry, the tool first asks site visitors to consider what they are interested in, and then lists careers in horticulture that might match their interests.

    Every career page includes information about the job, the level of education required, links to where to study in the U.S., data about salaries, links to professional organizations supporting that career, and engaging videos of people in those careers. Meant to provide introductory information to each career across the art, science, technology and business of horticulture, the new resource will continue to grow as more careers are featured, and more videos selected to help users understand all of the diverse options in the horticulture industry.

    “Seed Your Future is committed to providing quality, reputable information about all of the exciting careers available across the art, science, technology and business of plants,” said Susan E. Yoder, executive director of Seed Your Future. “Showing students, parents, mid-career changers, educators, and anyone else interested in plants that there are meaningful and rewarding careers working with plants is one of the goals of Seed Your Future. Whether this resource introduces site visitors to a fulfilling career, or a lifelong passion, one thing is clear — the more we know about plants, the more we can make a difference in the world today."

    The site http://www.seedyourfuture.org/careers serves as a digital hub for all horticulture-career information in a concise, easy to read format with links to external resources, places to study and find scholarships, and videos of real people in each of the careers fields.

    About Seed Your Future Seed Your Future is a national movement to promote horticulture and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants. Supported by more than 150 partner organizations, we envision a U.S. where everyone understands and values the importance of plants and the people who work in the art, science, technology and business of horticulture. For information, visit us at SeedYourFuture.org.

  • January 20, 2019 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently earned a prestigious accreditation from Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI). The Zoo’s botanical garden is a longtime member of BGCI, an organization created in 1987 to promote plant conservation by linking the botanical gardens of the world into a global network.

    The botanical garden’s five-year accreditation means the facility is certified as an official BGCI botanical garden. This brings with it a new plant conservation standard for the Zoo and recognizes the garden as one that conforms to the highest international standards for plant collections and botanical research. The OKC Zoo is only the fifth botanical garden to receive this accreditation within the United States and the eleventh to do so internationally.

    Botanical garden members can share their collections with each other for research purposes and conservation efforts whether the trade be in genetic material, seeds, or living plants.

    BGCI offers three botanical garden accreditation categories that each require extensive documentation and follow high-quality criteria for attainment. The application process is quite lengthy and examples of documentation from several categories must be submitted, including peer-reviewed articles, plant research, conservation practices, and collection planning processes.

    The Zoo’s botanical garden encompasses over 120 acres where exotic animals roam over the landscapes under a canopy of flowering trees, forested groves, and wildflower meadows. Come visit the largest collection of Oklahoma native plants nestled securely within the historic cross-timbers ecosystem. This remarkable ecosystem, where the eastern deciduous forest meets the tall grass prairie, is the cornerstone of the botanical garden and sets the tone for a purely unmatched native botanical experience. Our Oklahoma native plant collection contains more than 100 species, some of which are listed as rare or imperiled.

    The botanical garden also hosts the largest outdoor butterfly garden in Oklahoma! The butterfly garden covers more than 21,000 square feet and showcases pollinator plants, nectar pants, and host plants which serve to educate our guests on the importance of pollinators and monarch migration. Plants displayed in our botanical collection include species from North America, Australia, Asia, Africa, and South America. The Zoo first achieved national accreditation as a botanical garden in 1998 through the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

  • January 08, 2019 9:32 AM | Anonymous

    Thinking of creating or upgrading your Plant Collection Database? There are a ton of options out there but ArbNet at Morton Arboretum has put together a comparison of three database programs to assist with making a choice that works for your organization.



  • December 08, 2018 10:05 AM | Anonymous
    Every year we install a 30' tall poinsettia tree ( silk ) in our Visitor Center Lobby. But we wanted something more tropical for the RF Pyramid, so for the past several years we have put up a Bromeliad/ Orchid Tree. It begins with a metal frame. We then add rings to the frame & then plastic pots go in the rings. 

    We add assorted bromeliads in varying colors & sizes to the pots. ( Guzmanias & Neoregelias, mostly) The final finishing touch is big, beautiful white Phalenopsis Orchids.
    Our guest love it! 

    Donita Brannon  




  • December 02, 2018 10:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We have a new section on the AZH website detailing each of the 2018-2019 AZH Plant Conservation Grants.  At the 2018 AZH annual conference in Winnipeg, a total of five grants were awarded for projects in Madagascar, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Colorado, and England.  Check out the details of each project on the AZH conservation grant page - https://azh.org/azh-conservation-grant-project-updates/ 

    Community based habitat restoration for the critically endangered Guatemalan beaded lizard (Heloderma charlesbogerti)
    International Reptile Conservation Foundation

    Continuing on their past success with habitat restoration for endangered Guatemalan lizards, the International Reptile Conservation Foundation will use AZH funding this year to create habitat for the Guatemalan beaded lizard by planting 100 hectares of oak forest on abandoned agricultural plots. This will be the first ecological restoration project in the dry forests of Guatemala.


    The project aims to:

    • Assess and document forest tree species composition in well preserved areas of habitat
    • Engage local communities in direct conservation actions such as tree seed collection and reforestation
    • Establish a local tree nursery to propagate and grow large tree seedlings able to withstand dry seasons
    • Restore up to 100 ha of habitat with 10,000 native trees
    • Determine survival and growth rate of newly planted trees
    • Develop scalable techniques for dry forest ecosystem restoration in the Matagua Valley



  • November 15, 2018 11:33 AM | Anonymous

    By Danielle Green

    The AZH Program Committee is now accepting proposals for presentations at the 2019 AZH Annual Conference

    hosted by Philadelphia Zoo August 25-28, 2019.

    What makes an AZH Conference special is presentations from horticulture professionals like you! The challenges and obstacles that we face every day lead to solutions and success. Share these with your zoo horticulture colleagues by speaking in the program, creating a poster, or participating in a panel discussion.

    Everything that you need to know to be an AZH presenter is here. 2019 AZH CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS

    Chris Dailey, AZH Program Chair


  • October 23, 2018 3:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If healthy ecosystems are what we desire, we must embrace predators. There is no way around it. Because of their meat-based diets, predators can have serious effects on plant diversity. Generally speaking, as plant diversity increases, so does the biodiversity of that region. It's not just large predators like wolves and bears either. Even predators as small as spiders can have considerable impacts on not only plant diversity, but ecosystem processes as well. Before we get to that, however, we should take a moment to review some of the background on this subject.

    The way in which predators mediate plant diversity falls under a realm of an ecological science called top-down ecosystem controls. In a top-down system, predators mediate the populations of herbivores, which takes pressure off of the plant community. It makes a lot of sense as a numbers game. The fewer herbivores there are, the better the plants perform overall. However, ecology is never that simple. More and more we are realizing that top-down controls have less to do with fewer herbivores than they do with herbivore behavior.

    Herbivores, like any organism on this planet, respond to changes in their environment. When predators are present, herbivores often become more cautious and change up their behavior as a result. Such is the case of grasshoppers living in fields. Grasshoppers are incredibly numerous and can do considerable amounts of damage to plant communities as they feed. Picture swarms of locusts and you kind of get the idea.

    Given the choice, grasshoppers will preferentially feed on some plants more than others. Such was the case when researchers began observing grasshopper behavior in some old fields in Connecticut. The grasshoppers in this study really seemed to prefer grasses to all other plants. That is unless spiders were present. In this particular system lives a spider known as the nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira). The nursery web spider is an effective hunter and the fact does not seem to be lost on the grasshoppers.

    In the presence of spiders, grasshoppers change up their feeding behavior quite a bit. Instead of feeding on grasses, they switch over to feeding on goldenrod (Solidago rugosa). Although the researchers are not entirely sure why they make this shift, they came up with three possible explanations. First is that the goldenrod is much more structurally complex than the grass and thus offers more places for the grasshopper to hide. Second is that goldenrod fills the grasshoppers stomach in less time thanks to the higher water content of the leaves. This would mean that grasshoppers had more time to watch for predators than they would if they were eating grass. Third is that the feeding behaviors of both arthropods allows the grasshopper to better keep track of where spiders might be lurking. It is very likely that all three hypotheses play a role in this shift.

    It's the shift in diet itself that has ramifications throughout the entire ecosystem in question. Many goldenrod species are highly competitive when left to their own devices. If left untouched, abandoned fields can quickly become a monoculture of goldenrod. That is where the spiders come in. By causing a behavioral shift in their grasshopper prey, the spiders are having indirect effects on plant diversity in these habitats. Because grasshoppers spend more time feeding on goldenrods in the presence of spiders, they knock back some of the competitive advantages of these plants.

    The researchers found that when spiders were present, overall plant diversity increased. This is not because the spiders ate more grasshoppers. Instead, it's because the grasshoppers shifted to a diet of goldenrod, which knocked the goldenrod back just enough to allow other plants to establish. It's not just plant diversity that changed either. Spiders also caused an increase in both solar radiation and nitrogen reaching the soils!

    In knocking back the goldenrod, the habitat became slightly more open and patchy as various plant species of different shapes and sizes gradually established. This allowed more light to reach the soil, thus changing the environment for new seeds to germinate. Also, because goldenrod leaves tend to break down more slowly, they can have significant influences on nutrient cycles within the soil. As a more diverse set of plants establish in these field habitats, the type of leaf litter that falls to the ground changes as well. This resulted in an overall increase in the nitrogen supply to the soil, which also influences plant diversity.

    In total, the mere presence of spiders was enough to set in motion these top-down ecosystem effects. It's not that spiders eat more grasshoppers, it's that they are changing the behavior of grasshoppers in a way that results in a more diverse plant community overall. This is a radically different narrative than what has been observed with examples such as the reintroduction of wolves to the greater Yellowstone ecosystem yet the conclusions are very much the same. Predators have innumerable ecosystem benefits that we simply can't afford to ignore.

    Photo Credits: [1] [2] [3]

    Further Reading: [1] [2]

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