Protecting Endangered Species

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The Amorphophallus titanum that's growing in the Gardens today first came to Edinburgh as a little corm or a bulb essentially the size of an orange.
And we've grown it here over the past 12 years before it flowered. And then we thought that was it, it would die. Two years later, it flowered again. And then since then it has flowered in 2019 and in 2022.
We have been working with our collaborators in Indonesia, where this plant naturally occurs and we've come to the conclusion it's endangered in the wild.
The Biomes is really interesting and really a worthwhile project for me because not only is it going to showcase these enigmatic, wonderful plants, but it's also going to help us develop a research collection so that as a researcher, I can use the collections in ways that I can't currently use them.
The Research Glasshouses that we’re currently in are in very poor condition so the collections themselves are under threat and without them we can't continue our research programmes.
The Botanics has probably the biggest collection of Gesneriaceae anywhere in the world. The Gesneriaceae is a family of about 3,500 species, mostly found in the tropics and subtropics. And the most famous probably are the African violets that come from South Africa. We have about 4,000 plants in total.
The low altitude species are threatened by agricultural expansion and population pressures or urban expansion into those areas. And they're also very vulnerable to freak events, freak storms or landslides. So the research collections here underpin all of our programmes and science on this family. There's a whole load of information that we can get from a plant when we've got it in the Living Collections here.
We have the world's largest cultivated collection of rhododendrons. The Vireyas make up about a third of the entire genus. And here in the Garden, I think out of the 350 named species, we have over 200. Vireya rhododendrons’ natural habitat are in the cloud forests of Southeast Asia, with a handful coming from southern India and northern Australia. Intensive agriculture has depleted the forest. So the Vireyas have really been pushed up to what remains of the primary forest on top of the mountain.
This is a scientific and conservation collection. We have numerous plants of each species from different localities, which makes them genetically distinct and genetically different. So therefore they become a much more valuable research and conservation resource. The Glasshouses now are old, they're difficult to maintain, they leak, and it's becoming extremely challenging to grow plants in them. So having new glasshouses that are environmentally thermally efficient would be just amazing and allow us to continue this legacy.

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