BOTANIC GARDENS: Modern-Day Arks

by Sara Oldfield

Publisher: New Holland Publishers (2010)
ISBN 978-1847-735195

Hardback £24.99

Sara Oldfield, with a career in conservation for over 30 years and as General Secretary of the charity Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), is well placed to write this book, which sets out to record the vital role that botanic gardens around the world are playing in the fight to save plant species. Royalties from the book go to supporting the work of the BGCI.

When the Eden Project fully opened in March 2001, more and more people were made aware of the importance of plants in our everyday lives. In fact, all life depends on the flora which is often taken for granted and it is so easy, when looking around a garden so full of colourful plants, to ignore the truth. The reality is that we are facing a crisis as scientists estimate that one third of all flowering plant species are threatened with extinction.

This book considers the essential conservation role of botanic gardens. Chapters feature gardens from around the world, including the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Uganda, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and China, revealing how a global network is striving to save our botanical heritage. One serious omission is the significant international work undertaken by the Eden Project. In this well-illustrated book, we are taken behind the scenes at botanic gardens around the world to be shown the important but little-known work that goes on in these ‘Arks’ to safeguard plant species. Readers’ interest is enhanced as gardeners and botanists lend a personal angle and comments to the text.

We are shown examples of areas with ecological restoration around the world, often maintained by volunteers. There is a useful section entitled ‘taking action’ which describes websites concerned with global conventions and about voluntary organisations that are supporting plant conservation around the world and how we can get involved.

Sara says that while it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of big, global environmental issues, botanic gardens can inspire us to do our bit. I particularly liked the ‘action at home’ section that suggests what we as individuals can do to make positive change to conserve plants.

David F.J. Pearce