The Arnold Arboretum’s collection of plants in the genus Acer (maple) has been ranked as the most significant in the world for conservation purposes in a report released this fall by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Detailing the findings of a 2010 study of ex situ (off-site, or cultivated) collections of maples, the report gives top marks to the Arboretum. The analysis took into account the collections held by 228 institutions in 37 countries and was conducted as part of a broader effort to preserve threatened maples.
In 2009, BGCI and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) jointly published The Red List of Maples under the partnership of the Global Trees Campaign. This report named 26 taxa in the genus as endangered or critically endangered in the wild and called for additional efforts to ensure their conservation. To assess institutional efforts to protect maple diversity, BGCI then initiated a survey to determine which of these threatened taxa are held in ex situ collections worldwide—and which ones are not. Of the 4,405 maple records identified in the survey, 5% represent 16 of the most threatened species. The remaining 10 most threatened species are not known to be in cultivation at all, but can now be prioritized for collection. BGCI concludes its findings with an appeal to the botanical community to strengthen ex situ collections, implement programs for restoration and reintroduction, and involve communities in assisting conservation initiatives.
Maples continue to be an important genus for the Arboretum to collect, and were a primary target in a recent collecting trip in China by Curator of Living Collections Michael Dosmann. As part of its commitment to the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC), the Arnold Arboretum serves as the national germplasm repository for Acer as well as five other genera: Carya (hickory), Fagus (beech), Stewartia, Syringa (lilac) and Tsuga (hemlock). As a means to conserve biodiversity, the Arboretum maintains and develops these collections to maximize both inter- and intraspecific diversity.
Click here for more information on the Global Survey of ex situ maple collections.