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  Amorphophallus titanum conservation
From: Brian OBrien <bobrien at gac.edu> on 1997.09.07 at 22:49:46(1179)
Regarding the recent suggestion of donation of Amorphophallus titanum
plants (from the Symon expedition seeds and other sources) to botanical
gardens or other institutions where they can be preserved, I've had this
intention with my plants since the beginning. If people on the list know
of institutions which would like to have plants of this species, I think
that perhaps a distribution could be worked out.
I currently have plants growing in the greenhouse of our local biology
department, and a promise of plants to the Iowa State University
greenhouse. My largest one is currently about 40" tall, with the stem
being about 2" in diameter at the base. The others are smaller, mainly
from constraint in smaller pots.
It might be getting a bit late in the year to ship the plants, but if
anyone on the list knows of appropriate sites for donation, I'd like to
hear about them. Shipment next spring or summer should be easy to work out.
There's been a good bit of discussion on the cacti_etc list about the
potential lack of value of preservation of plants through cultivation,
based largely on the ideas of propagation of "greenhouse races", loss of
other genetic diversity, inadvertent hybridization, etc. In addition,
preservation of the entire habitat is, of course, of much greater value
than plucking selected species from it for cultivation, even for
conservaiton purposes.
I personally think that many of the contentions (except for the last
one, which isn't always possible) suffer greatly from a lack of data. They
are hypothetical in the sense that genetic variability, survivability as
re-introductions, etc., have not been quantitated for most of the species
under consideration.
Preservation of A. titanum in cultivation is possibly an exception to
these types of largely hypothetical arguments. There's little likelihood,
I would imagine, of hybridization going unrecognized; the species is
possibly under imminent danger of extinction in the wild due to collection
for manufacture of cosmetics; and the natural gene pool might show little
variation from plant to plant. I saw a mention of the last possibility on
this list at some past time, but don't know if data has been obtained to
support it.

Brian O'Brien

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