Many know how the San Diego Zoo is a world leader in working to protect animal species from extinction. One important task is to store critical genetic material. Their world-renowned Frozen Zoo has been storing cryogenically preserved biological samples since 1976.
When I walked through the San Diego Zoo Centennial Festival in Balboa Park last Saturday, I learned something that really impressed me. Not only is the zoo striving to save the world’s most endangered wild animals, but San Diego Zoo Global has developed an important native plant seed bank, in an effort to conserve rare and threatened local plant species.
The zoo is member of the California Plant Rescue Partnership, whose goal is the long term conservation of wild plant species through seed banks and field work. One of the people with whom I briefly spoke has the job of hiking about San Diego County, searching for and monitoring populations of these rare plant species. What a fantastic job that must be!
The zoo has developed an extensive seed collection. Some native plants being protected are the San Diego golden star Bloomeria clevelandii, Dudleya brevifolia, Monardella stoneana, Comarostaphylis diversifolia ssp. diversifolia, and Corethrogyne filaginifolia var. linifolia, which is commonly called the Del Mar sand aster.
The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is also working hard to save the Tecate Cypress in Southern California and Baja California, a tree that the rare Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly depends upon. A poster at the zoo’s centennial event helped to explain why this effort is so urgent.