Botanical Gardens seek public’s help in funding unique project meant to save 400 endangered species of plants and flowers

Amir Ben-David
Published: 09.22.12

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is currently promoting an ongoing initiative meant to protect about 400 endangered species of flowers and plants in Israel, called “Adopt a plant.”

Israel is home to some 2,400 native species of plants, a wealth made possible by its location at the junction of three continents and three climatic areas, and its variety of altitudes and soils; but expanding urban terrain, as well as various other development projects, has placed hundreds of plants at risk.

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The Red Data Book on Endangered Species in Israel, penned by Prof. Avi Shmida, Dr. Gadi Pollak and Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir, states that so far, some 36 of Israel’s indigenous plans have disappeared and over 400 face various risk of extinction.

As some of those plants exist solely in Israel, should they become extinct here, they will be gone for good.

“We know that around 30 species have already disappeared,” said Fragman-Sapir, head scientist at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.

“Some are of obvious benefit – they are ornamental, beautiful, or of some economic value. The rest are just weeds or plants with no specific, known value. But all play a role in their ecosystems. Nature is like a huge genetic Bible. We have learned to read the first half page. But we don’t yet know everything there is to know about plants and animals which have no obvious importance.”

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, which is home to some 130 plants, has been cataloging the endangered species and collecting their seeds in an attempt to promote their preservation.

But such preservation projects entail hefty costs, and the Gardens have decided to appeal to the Israeli public for help.

The preservation process for each plant is estimated at NIS 10,000 (roughly $2,500) across five years.

Donors receive a certificate, a special tour of the Gardens with the head scientist, who is coordinating the project, and the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped to preserve Israel’s natural heritage.

The institute said that it is aware that donations of such proportions usually come form companies and philanthropists and not from private individual, but it stressed that every donation is important, adding that they are all recognized and that donors know which plant the funds will be earmarked to save.

The “Adopt a plant” project received the blessing of the Environmental Protection and Agriculture ministers, as well as that of President Shimon Peres, all whom have already adopted a plant.

“If the Land of Israel and its treasures are dear to us, and they are, then we have to do everything we can to protect them” Fragman-Sapir said. “Otherwise, many plants will no longer be around for future generation.”,7340,L-4284602,00.html