January 2022

by Colin Khoury, Senior Director for Science and Conservation

We begin this new year with a flurry of new science and conservation activity, both at the Garden and further afield. Our ongoing work to help conserve rare oaks, cycads, manzanitas, coyote bush, and other threatened plants has increased dramatically over the past few years. We have also continued to expand our efforts to protect pollinators, restore local habitats for native flora and fauna, and generate useful information about rare and/or useful plants. 

In this coming year we will begin a major new initiative that combines native habitat restoration with environmental education, working to restore a nearby canyon adjacent to Ocean Knoll Elementary School. On federal lands around Otay Mountain in southern San Diego County, we will be surveying, collecting and conserving, and propagating a fascinating set of rare plants that grow only in the US-Mexico borderlands, again combining conservation efforts with educational programming. In a third project, we will evaluate one such species – Gander’s pitcher sage (Lepechinia ganderi Epling) – for its potential to become a new ornamental plant for horticulture, and thus available for cultivation in gardens around San Diego and beyond. We will also be supporting partners in efforts to collect and conserve the locally iconic and increasingly threatened Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana Parry ex Carrière). Finally, we will embark on a series of projects aimed at documenting the incredible diversity of food crops and their wild relatives worldwide, understanding trends in their use, and helping to devise effective strategies for conservation of their genetic diversity.

These projects are innovative in the ways they merge efforts that are conventionally done in isolation – conservation combined with education, habitat protection with horticulture, and wild plant botany with food security. They are similarly exciting in the ways they bring together local, state, and national agencies and governments, like-minded community and nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and industry partners to work for people and for the planet. We are honored to be partners in this work. In our newsletters in the months ahead, we look forward to delving into more detail about each of these projects and the positive impacts that our staff, wonderful volunteers, and partnering colleagues are making locally and regionally. 

We are busy preparing for adding these big new projects to our science and conservation portfolio, including by bringing new members onto our science and conservation team. It is a very exciting time at the Garden. At the same time, we are keenly aware that there is so much to be done around San Diego and further afield to help conserve, raise awareness about, increase access to, and make wise use of plant diversity. There are so many challenges, interrelated and ever compounding, from biodiversity loss to climate change, food insecurity to environmental degradation. 

As we bring this previous year to a close and begin the new one, it is with this sense of awareness of how much important work there is to be done that we acknowledge that our impact must further increase substantially. And, so, even as we start these new projects, we are also busy forming stronger relationships with science, conservation, and funding partners, together proposing a range of ambitious, long-term initiatives that can only be done in collaboration across organizations with complementary strengths. We offer expertise and enthusiasm in conservation horticulture; seed banking; rare plant and habitat surveying, monitoring, and collecting; characterizing, evaluating, and distributing useful plants; environmental restoration; conservation planning; and science outreach and education. We are continually learning. We consider collaboration essential. We can’t wait to see where we can go from here.