Plant Conservation at the BA

Many people think of water, soil, or animals when they hear the word conservation. However, plant conservation is important, too. Just like certain animals, some trees are threatened with extinction. Public gardens, like the Brenton Arboretum, play an important role in the protection of these trees.

How the Brenton Arboretum practices plant conservation:

  • We select species that thrive in central Iowa so they are available for future uses.
  • We curate genetic diversity. The Brenton Arboretum continually improves the provenance and quality of our collections by obtaining wild seed sources from well-documented sources. The following quote from Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) explains the importance of genetic diversity in living collections: “For most species, the more individuals you curate the greater the genetic diversity you can conserve, and the greater the conservation value of your collection. Curating a genetically diverse collection is relatively easy and affordable for seed bank collections, but much more challenging for living plant collections.”
  • Kentucky Coffeetree Research Project. Andy Schmitz, our director of horticulture, has collected seeds from 70 wild populations from across the native range of this tree, with more trips planned. The trees have been growing for three years and are now ready to be added to our permanent collection. In time, this will be a nationally recognized collection.


Ways the Brenton Arboretum will raise awareness of plant conservation issues in 2014 include:

  • Plant Conservation Day, May 18. In May, Nature Club programming will include activities connecting children to threatened trees using science and math.
  • The Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat traveling exhibit from the Morton Arboretum will be on display at the arboretum June 6 through November 21.
  • In spring 2014, signs will identify eight threatened tree species in our permanent collection. Of the eight, four are featured in the Vanishing Acts display.
  • Classes on disease and pest issues that threaten trees and stress the importance of diverse plantings will be held April 5 on Emerald Ash Borer Alert with David Jahn, city of Des Moines municipal arborist and on June 7 on Emerging Threats with Paul Tauke of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


The Brenton Arboretum also practices and promotes sound land conservation practices, including:

  • More than 30 acres of prairie are burned regularly as a best management practice
  • Native vegetation buffering our ponds and stream corridors
  • One-acre wetland
  • Bluebird nesting boxes and other wildlife habitat (more than 180 bird species have been observed at the arboretum)

This post was originally published on March 4, 2014.

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