April’s showers bring a blog about plants?
That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. This romantic sentence from Romeo asks if names matter, but I would posture this question, “What’s in a flower? A daisy is just as beautiful as a rose.” Besides, Meg Ryan taught us in “You’ve Got Mail” that daisies are the happiest flower. When you’re at the Zoo, you are most likely to be here to see animals. Or to be with someone while they see animals. But you’re missing a whole other world of our Zoo, the world of horticulture.
Part of the Zoo’s mission is to save animals and their habitats. So sometimes that means working to save plant life too! Up until recently, I did not know that some plants are also endangered species. Some endangered plant species probably should exist in spaces that have been not only used for building and road construction, but also for landscaping. Green spaces are great, but green spaces that promote the growth of native plants are even better! Not only do they help native bird species and native pollinators, but planting native plant species keep those populations of native plants going, and for all of my friends out there who seem to have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is, planting a native plant in its native environment means it should be fairly self-sufficient and require very little care. Why are succulents so popular in houses? They like dry environments and little to no water. Hopefully your home isn’t super humid or flooded, so they thrive there. If you’re interested in finding out what native plants you can plant in your area, Audobon Society has a great resource here: https://www.audubon.org/native-plants.
Another way that Zoo Atlanta’s Horticulture Team works to protect native plant species is through a partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and their bog restoration program! Mountain bogs are an important part of North Georgia’s ecosystem and are home to the smallest turtle on the planet, the bog turtle! (We recently had two bog turtles hatch here a the Zoo; learn more here:https://zooatlanta.org/critically-endangered-bog-turtles-hatch-at-zoo-atlanta/.) Georgia has a large number of Blue Ridge wetlands! Currently 15 mountain bogs are under active restoration through this project. Each bog is unique and may house different species of plants and animals. Some plant species that are endangered that live there are the montane purple pitcher plant and the swamp pink!
Bog restoration involves many things. Sometimes it is removal of trees or other woody vegetation that doesn’t belong there. It can be researching other nearby wetlands to see which plants may thrive in that area. It can be seed collecting and propagation of rare species. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the best example of this propagation is “the montane purple pitcherplant that went from less than twenty plants in the mid 1980s to now over a thousand individuals in greenhouses and in bogs in five restored bogs.” This is exciting news!
The Department of Natural Resources also plans on using prescribed fire to see if that is a viable way of promoting bog restorations.
You can read more about bog restoration here: https://georgiawildlife.com/conservation/bogrestoration#:~:text=Bog%20restoration%20involves%20not%20only,species%20such%20as%20the%20pitcherplant , https://zooatlanta.org/project/bog-restoration/.
Our Horticulture Team works so hard every day, no matter the temperature or the weather. They are vital not only to how the Zoo looks, but to how we work in conservation to fulfill our mission! The next time you are here on grounds and see them hard at work, take time to say thank you for the work they do for our Zoo and our planet!
Public Programs Coordinator