GARDENERS the world over have an immense opportunity to shape the future of conservation as we know it.
Zimbabwe is endowed with many beautiful plants and some of which are endemic to this part of the continent of Africa. There are many things gardeners can do and should do to conserve our flora heritage for future generations.
The first thing is for a gardener to know the conservation status of the plant species they are growing. Being a careful consumer when buying plants one can stop contributing to the demise of these plants. Many threatened orchids, cacti, succulents, bulbs and cycads find their way into the nursery trade.
Let us refrain from buying them, but blow the whistle to responsible authorities like the department of National Parks and Wildlife. Gardeners must know the laws that protect wild plants. It is an offense to possess a protected plant species without a valid permit. A permit is required for the importation or exportation of any plant material. The habit of just digging up any plants you find in the wild could lead to prosecution.
To help protect wild plant populations think conservation when buying plants. Do not buy these different plants being sold on the roadsides. Wild orchids like ansellia gigantea and a bulbous plant like boophane disticha are common this time of the year. They bloom and send out new shoots during the rainy season but soon fade away and are often thrown in the trash can. They are better off in the wild where they can survive during the dry season undisturbed. Give your business to those nurseries who actively work to conserve threatened plants.
When possible purchase plants that have been propagated sexually (by seed) to help maintain the genetic health of threatened plants. Collecting seed of plants is a better way of protecting the mature individuals in the populations, so they can continue dispersing seed. Also ask how plants were propagated in a nursery especially if they are indigenous plants.
Learn to document the origins of any threatened plants in your garden, like your cycads, orchids, ferns and succulents. Some plants are so endangered that the plants in private collections may be an important stockpile of germ plasm for future conservation efforts. A detailed record of your plants increases their value to conservationists.
Never grow any invasive or potentially invasive plants in your Garden as they can spread easily threatening the survival of native plants.
Remove any invasive plants and get relevant information from the environmental management authority or the national botanic gardens. Grow indigenous plants from your local area.
Other things you can do as a gardener is to join conservation efforts in your area such as helping removing invasive plants such as lantana.
Be an eco-tourist by visiting botanic sanctuaries, they need your support, it contributes to the protection of these critical habitats and sustains local communities.
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