A show of plant personalities

From the flagship of a lost world long before the last great global climate change, to the lonely bachelor surviving only in gardens and greenhouses, plants whisper stories. Tales of cunning carnivores that lure innocent insects to a dreaded end and of stately palms, unequipped to move away from their imperilled comfort zone. Stirring life stories of plant species introduce visitors to the Amsterdam Botanic Garden, an IUCN Member, to a range of topical threats to the riches of Life on Earth: climate change, invasive species, habitat destruction, intensive agriculture and more. All these threats are illustrated by living examples of the stricken species.

Bog pimpernel is vulerable in the Netherlands Photo: de Hortus

The historic Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam boasts an exhibit of 50 threatened plants during the International Year of Biodiversity 2010. A stunning 144 page catalogue called ‘Plants in the Spotlight’ includes habitat pictures, stories, maps and conservation facts on each imperilled plant. Approaching each species as a ‘personality’ with its very own ‘life story’ gives visitors an excellent view into the world of threatened plants that often remain overlooked. When looking at 50 individual species from across the globe, a variety of conservation issues become apparent.

As you open the catalogue, a map of the garden on the inside cover shows the location of each plant. Next is a chapter on biodiversity where the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is introduced. Emphasis is also given to threatening plants - invasive species that strangle ever-more native habitats worldwide. The main part tells 50 plant stories and the final chapter is about the garden and its pivotal role in connecting people and plants since 1638.

The publication was funded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and the Society for Friends of the Amsterdam Botanic Garden, who together made it possible to price the educational catalogue at €7,50. The pricing, together with the fact that the book was designed to be ‘coffee-table-proof’ will help disseminate the catalogue widely and achieve maximum outreach for plant conservation during this year of biodiversity.

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