Native orchid article

Adam Fikso irisman at AMERITECH.NET
Thu Feb 5 20:23:31 CET 2004

PIctures don't come through for me. Can you reformat or send jpg.?   Are
pictures allowed on this list?  Adam  Would like to see them.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bonaventure W Magrys" <magrysbo at SHU.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2004 11:07 AM
Subject: Native orchid article

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 12/28/03 ]

Botanical garden babies rare plants

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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? Atlanta/South Metro community page

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An ordinary plastic tray filled with several dozen small pots, each
sprouting a pale green
shoot and white root hairs that look like miniature dandelion puffs, could
help ensure wild
survival for one of the state's rarest native orchids.

The small orchids, called monkeyface orchids because their delicate white
flowers look like,
well, monkeys in profile, are a threatened species in Georgia, where they
are known to grow in
only a few places near Newnan.

The orchids in the tray were germinated from seeds collected from their
parent plants in the
wild in 2001. Sown in spring 2002, they spent their first months in the
Atlanta Botanical
Garden's new tissue culture laboratory, where manager Ron Gagliardo and his
staff focus on
propagating rare and endangered species in keeping with the garden's native
plant conservation

This month, Gagliardo will select some of the seedling monkeyface orchids
and return them to
the wild in Coweta County, where, he hopes, they will one day produce seeds
of their own and
increase their species.

"This is the first time it's ever been tried in Georgia," said Gagliardo,
who is also curator
of tropical collections at the garden. "We're working with a private
landowner because [he has]
the most accessible site to do this trial."

December is a good month to transplant the fledgling orchids because they
are dormant now. And
like many other plants, the monkeyface needs exposure to cold weather to
thrive, he said.

But Gagliardo will keep some of the seedling monkeyface orchids at the
garden, just in case the
first trial fails. The garden, in fact, routinely houses more of several
rare species than are
now growing in the wild, he said.

The tissue culture laboratory opened in March 2002. Built with money
donated by Dottie Fuqua in
honor of Ron Determann, superintendent of the garden's Dorothy Chapman
Fuqua Conservatory, the
laboratory provides the high-tech equipment and sterile space needed to
propagate the rarest of
the rare.

Georgia has 57 species of native orchids. Many of them are rare, and
Gagliardo is already
growing 30 in the tissue culture laboratory, where orchids and other plants
can be cloned,
sprouted from seed, or raised from cuttings on sterile gels and fed with
nutrients and

Many native orchids, for example, need a nutrient "bridge" between seeds
and soil. In the wild,
a soil fungus provides the bridge, Gagliardo said. If the fungus is absent,
the seeds won't

Gagliardo and his colleagues seek more efficient ways to propagate plants
and to speed up the
growth of slow-growing plants like trilliums, which take seven years to
grow from seed to

"We could turn the knowledge over to the nursery industry," he said,
explaining that such a
move would reduce incentives for collectors to gather the plants from the

Even before the tissue culture laboratory opened, garden researchers were
working to propagate
rare plants, especially carnivorous bog plants, said Carol Denhof,
conservation coordinator.

"They're very charismatic," she said. "They eat bugs, and people just love
that stuff."

Plants grown at the garden have been used successfully in bog restoration
projects for more
than a dozen years, starting with a project on U.S. Forest Service land in
northeast Georgia
that involved growing a federally endangered species of pitcher plants and
replanting them in
the wild.

"The bog where they grew was down to just a handful of plants," Denhof
said. "A group of people
thought they were helping the plants by pouring fertilizer into the
pitchers, which killed a
lot of the plants."

Now, she said, 200 to 300 plants are flourishing in the restored bog.

The garden also grows other federally endangered species, including the
Florida torreya, a
conifer that grows in Georgia only in Decatur County, on the Florida line.

"It has suffered a fungal blight that causes root rot since about 1960,"
Denhof said. "There
are no trees in the wild now, mainly only root sprouts."

Ten-year-old cuttings at the garden are now 10 feet tall, and more of the
conifers are being
cloned, she said.

"We have more individuals here than exist in the wild," she said.

Denhof is also working on a project funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to restore
four federally listed plant species on Grandfather Mountain, N.C. Hang
gliders who use the
mountain have inadvertently destroyed many of the plants by running over
them as they leap off
ledges, she said.

"Nobody's done this kind of work before and succeeded," she said. "We're
trying to figure out
how to attach the plants to rocks and have them survive 200-mile-an-hour
wind and severe

The next phase of Denhof's work focuses on orchid restoration, which
dovetails with the work
being done by Gagliardo at the tissue culture lab, she said.

Although the lab is off-limits to all but staff members, visitors can get a
close-up view of
the facility, with its hundreds of glass jars and flasks filled with
thousands of rare

There is also an adjacent kiosk that explains the lab's work.

"As far as we know, this is the only one in the world with a
floor-to-ceiling glass wall," said
Geri Laufer, spokeswoman for the garden.

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