Memorial garden seeks to save native plants

Native and endangered Samoan plant species have been introduced to the Art Whistler Memorial Garden, in a bid to save them from extinction.

The Art Whistler Memorial Garden is a joint project by the Samoa Conservation Society (S.C.S) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E), and is dedicated to the late ethnobotanist, Dr. Art Whistler.

The President of the S.C.S, James Atherton told the Samoa Observer in a telephone interview on Wednesday morning that the garden is 90 per cent complete and hopes to open the garden on 24 July.

The garden will also serve as a kind of backup for rare and endangered Samoan plant species, Mr. Atherton said.

He said that they have eight native species now in the garden including a number of native ferns as well as other rare and endangered plants such as the pau and the afa, and will soon be growing native palms.

“We are building it slowly but the challenge is some of our rare and endangered plants only grow up in the mountains,” he said.

He said growing the plants at lower altitudes posed problems of its own due to a difference in the climate.

Mr. Atherton explained that a lot of the work for the garden will involve trial and error as the work has no precedent. He said they are being cautious about which species they plant but said that the garden is proceeding well.

“We are actually trying to create a new microclimate,” he said.

He said that they are planting numerous tree ferns that will eventually provide shade, and will enable them to plant more plants that need shade to grow. 

The plantation process has been going on for weeks, with most of the plants sourced from the nursery while; others have been moved from other parts of the garden.

Mr. Atherton said that it will take a few years for the garden to mature but said that the plants seem to be growing well and have settled into the garden.

He said the society had received USD$22,000 funding from the Botanical Garden Conservation International (B.G.C.I).

The President said the S.C.S is grateful for the grant, which he said would allow them to hire a project coordinator to lead the collection and propagation work.

He acknowledged their Government partners at the Ministry, Dr. Art Whistler’s family and friends, and Rotary for their support.

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