Biodiversity for a Better World: Wild Ideas Worth Sharing
Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is the global organization of botanic gardens. BGCI is devoted to plant conservation and educating the world about plants and biodiversity. BGCI’s Education Congress is held every three years, bringing together garden educators, horticulturists, and plant scientists to share their insights. This year the congress was held at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, and with over 300 delegates attending from nearly 40 countries, it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up on the latest thinking in education, interpretation, and communication at botanic gardens.
A focus of the congress was reflecting on how botanic gardens in the 21st century can ensure that they become firmly embedded in the fabric of the community in which they are located, and are not seen as a place that only cetain sections of the community can access and enjoy. Dr. Bernadette Lynch’s presentation on the five-year initiative Communities in Nature, a program that aims to encourage botanical gardens to grow their social role was particularly fitting. Kew Gardens’ Grow Wild campaign, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s BioTECH High School were two outstanding examples of forward-looking gardens. A high school for botanists – can you imagine? Fairchild not only imagined this, but worked with the local school board to make it happen.
Shoots & Roots Bitters, a New York-based company founded bybbotantists, hosted a Science of Taste workshop, which taught participants the science of why food tastes the way it does, and why humans taste food as being sweet, sour, bitter, salty or umami. A favorite activity tricked our taste buds into thinking we were eating something particularly sweet after we ate miracle fruit, although we were really eating lemons.
Missouri Botanic Garden was the perfect setting for this Congress, and delegates enjoyed an idyllic welcome reception at the gardens proper as well as a Bluegrass and BBQ dinner at the beautiful Shaw Nature Reserve – 2,441 acres of natural area, with at least eight different vegetation communities, including woodland and forest, tall grass prairie, and a spectacularly beautiful wildflower garden. The reserve is a must-see when visiting St. Louis; it’s a great way to gain an understanding of the different plant communities in the Ozark Border country.
Missouri Botanical Garden was dressed in its very best spring color and the weather could not have been better. The irises were timed to perfection, the dogwoods were in full bloom, and the azaleas at their peak, too. A delightful place for a congress about education in botanic gardens–kudos to our hosts from Missouri Botanical Garden and BGCI!