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Safeguarding an endangered Texas Salvia species via botanical gardens and nursery collections

We will determine how much genetic diversity exists in wild populations, botanical gardens, and nurseries of the endangered Texas Salvia pentstemonoides

Safeguarding an endangered Texas Salvia species via botanical gardens and nursery collections
Mira Garner, former Research Assistant at The Morton Arboretum, working to analyze DNA of Salvia pentstemonoides

Morton staff

Description/abstract

Salvia pentstemonoides (big red sage) is a highly threatened (NatureServe G1- the most critical threat level) plant native to Texas. There are less than 10 populations (perhaps only approximately five) in existence. Only two of these populations exceed 100 plants; the remaining populations are all less than 50 plants. All populations are in unstable riverine or bluff habitat.  Big red sage is beautiful and charismatic, and is found in botanical gardens and in nursery catalogs. Thus the species is an interesting case of a plant that is highly threatened in the wild but possibly secure ex situ. In addition, it is of note that Salvia is a genus with many plants of high value in medicine and food, in addition to horticultural value.

In this study we will: (1) Determine whether the small populations have lower genetic diversity and/or higher inbreeding than the larger populations. Our hypothesis is that the larger populations would have higher diversity and thus be more genetically healthy. (2) Compare the genetic diversity in wild populations to those in nurseries and botanic gardens. Our hypothesis is that genetic diversity will be lower in the ex situ collections, but it is possible there is equal, or more genetic diversity, preserved ex situ. Also we predict that cultivated collections will have highly related individuals (mostly siblings), which could lead to inbreeding in the future. The knowledge from this study will help in situ and ex situ management of this highly threatened plant to ensure its survival.

Funding sources

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Conservation License Program
The Morton Arboretum

Project status

Complete

Timeline

2018-2019