Sunday, April 27, 2008

Overcollecting: Plants

Overcollecting is surprisingly common and you may be accidentally contributing to it. Here are some plant groups that suffer from overcollecting and if you ever buy these species you may want to check where they come from. There are certainly sustainable sources for many of these organisms but it never hurts to check.

Carnivorous plants- including sundews, bladderworts, Venus flytrap, and pitcher plants. Collectors or suppliers have stripped many areas in the Southeastern United States of all of these plants.

Cacti - in the Southwest United States rare cacti are harvested for sale nationwide and worldwide. Endangered cacti include the Nellie Cory cactus (which has one remaining colony), Epithelantha micromeres bokei, Ancistrocactus tubuschii, saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea), and Coryphantha minima.

Epiphytes - In southern Mexico, there are 411 species of epiphytes (air plants or bromeliads in the genus Tillandsia), of which several are extremely rare. These plants are threatened by overcollection for the houseplant trade.

Orchids - Several species have been collected to extinction. Examples include the extremely rare blue vanda (Vanda caerulea); Paphiopedilum druryi, believed extinct in its native habitat; Dendrobium pauciflorum, endangered and possibly extinct--only a single plant was known to exist in the wild in 1970; and the Javan phalaenopsis orchid, Phalaenopsis javanica. The latter was believed extinct. When it was rediscovered in 1960's, it was overcollected by commercial orchid dealers and thereby exterminated. There are no other known wild populations.

Even the humble African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) of Tanzania may soon be extinct in the wild partly because of the horticultural trade.

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