Plant Trust (GPCAA Inc.) aims to protect diversity in our garden plants by supporting identification and registration of collections of plants held in Australian private gardens, garden societies and clubs, botanic gardens, commercial nurseries, parks, historic estates and wherever enthusiasts have developed and maintain a significant representation of a plant genus or grouping. Get involved here
History of Plant Trust
Concerned about the loss of significant cultivated plants in Victoria, in 1983-4 the Royal Botanic Gardens established an Ornamental Plant Collections Association (OPCA). The inaugural meeting was held in August 1986. Dr. Jim Willis, former Assistant Government Botanist, agreed to be Patron. Subsequently the Committee decided to register, on a trial basis, collections which represented a range of plant types and holders. These collections were used to develop the record system and solve any problems which might have arisen. In 1988, a grant allowed for Royal Botanic Gardens to employ a horticulturalist half-time to develop the project and act as project officer for the Association.
On March 29, 1994 the Association approved a new Constitution and was renamed the "Ornamental Plant Conservation Association of Australia Inc." (OPCAA), replacing the Subscribers Group and Committee with a new management structure. During the late 1990's and early 2000's, the Association benefited from the support of a steady national and international membership, employed a part-time Administrative Officer and adapted to an evolving awareness and appreciation of the horticultural and scientific communities in the importance of plant conservation and plant collections.
By 2007 it had become clear that the word "Ornamental" restricted public engagement and confused or misled people on the operations of the Association. On June 11, 2007 the Association's members and committees approved the adoption of "Garden Plant Conservation Association of Australia Incorporated (GPCAA Inc.)" to reflect more clearly the international developments in the conservation of garden plants, complement the Association's current projects and plans for the future and, most importantly, be more easily understood by its prospective members.
With its updated image and identity, the members and committees of Plant Trust (GPCAA Inc.) look forward to their contribution to Australian and international plant conservation during the 21st century.
Why Conserve Garden Plants?
Our global knowledge of biodiversity is uneven, largely because we have concentrated efforts to date to a species level and the components of biodiversity used by people. There are gaps in our knowledge of the plant world and these require a collaborative and combined effort by more than just large institutions, botanic gardens, specialist growers and nurseries. The conservation of our plants in Australian gardens could be where you and your backyard can make a difference.
Our commercial nurseries understandably concentrate their attention on maintaining desirable and fashionable plants that are easily propagated and cultivated. You could contribute to the survival of a particular species. With a projected two thirds of the world's plant species being lost by the end of the 21st century, the importance of home gardeners in contributing to plant conservation cannot be underestimated. Consequences for the loss of these plants are enormous, including the elimination of valuable genes that have never been fully researched. We need to retain and record as many cultivated varieties of plants as possible. The loss of the older and less fashionable cultivars from our nurseries also reduces the plant world’s ability to develop disease resistant genes. We lose the potential to develop chemical components that could provide the ability to create resistance to devastating new viruses. A registered plant collection could hold the key to the future discovery of genetic gold!
Gardeners have historically played an important role in maintaining the diversity of plant life by filling their gardens with cultivars derived from species around the world. Their role in maintaining this diversity and their enthusiasm for historically significant, rare and unusual plants cannot be underestimated. Conservation organisations worldwide encourage the development of plant collections indigenous to their own country of origin and also acknowledge the need to widen the range of ex situ garden plants. We know for instance, that of an estimated 400,000 global plant species, only 53,000 or so are currently used medically. We also know that scientists are continually discovering beneficial chemical components in previously untested plant species. Plant information is of value far beyond the horticultural community. While specific plant details are being recorded in the databases of our Australian and New Zealand Botanic Gardens and research institutions, these organisations have a limited capacity to maintain all of the plant species available in Australia (whether native, exotic or cultivated varieties). We encourage you to register your plant collection with the GPC and facilitate a scientific & horticultural pathway to the plants you have nurtured in your collection.
What is a Plant Collection?
Plant collections are generally based around related plant groupings. The associations in these groupings are as diverse and as fascinating as the plants themselves and inevitably reflect the enthusiasm and interests of their owners.
Establishing what type of plant collection would suit you is not as difficult as you would imagine. It could include plant species that have been evaluated internationally, nationally or local to your area as deserving of a conservation status*. It could consist of fashionable genera in which many new cultivars are being produced (keeping track of the various names used in the Australian nursery trade becomes historically important information). It could include a group that supports the development of livelihoods based on the sustainable use of plants (e.g. bush foods, herbs, fruits, vegetables). Perhaps food and flower cultivars with the potential to be horticultural heirlooms such as those relative to a particular Australian architectural period appeal. Gardens in special climatic zones can also develop collections of suitable plants that will not grow elsewhere. Collections concentrating on Australian cultivars are essential to ensure the long-term conservation, management and restoration of our own plant diversity, communities and their associated habitats and ecosystems.
There are minimal obligations in maintaining the registration of a plant collection with Plant Trust. The requirements for record keeping have been developed to reflect the time available of our increasingly busy collection holders. For the enthusiasts, resources are available for more extensive record keeping. These records are made available as required for scientific and botanical purposes.