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Extreme Botany: The Precarious Science of Endangered Rare Plants

National Tropical Botanical Garden and our partners across the state and country were featured in the recent article published by Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Extreme Botany: The Precarious Science of Endangered Rare Plants.

Read an excerpt below from author Janet Marinelli and the full article at YaleEnvironment360.

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Steve Perlman on the cliffs Molokai. Photo by Hank Oppenheimer
Steve Perlman on the cliffs of Molokai. Photo by Hank Oppenheimer 

They don’t make the headlines the way charismatic animals such as rhinos and elephants do. But there are thousands of critically endangered plants in the world, and a determined group of botanists are ready to go to great lengths to save them.

To save plants that can no longer survive on their own, Steve Perlman has bushwhacked through remote valleys, dangled from helicopters, and teetered on the edge of towering sea cliffs. Watching a video of the self-described “extreme botanist” in actio­­n is not for the faint-hearted. “Each time I make this journey I’m aware that nature can turn on me,” Perlman says in the video as he battles ocean swells in a kayak to reach the few remaining members of a critically endangered species on a rugged, isolated stretch of Hawaiian coastline. “The ocean could suddenly rise up and dash me against the rocks like a piece of driftwood.”

When he arrives at his destination, Perlman starts hauling himself up an impossibly steep, razor-sharp cliff 3,000 feet above the sea without a rope, his fingers sending chunks of rock tumbling down to the waters below. Finally, he reaches the plants and painstakingly transfers pollen from the flowers of one to those of another to ensure that the species can perpetuate itself. At the end of the season, he will return to collect any seeds they were able to produce.

Continue reading on YaleEnvironment360

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