2013 RHODODENDRON SPECIES CONSERVATION CONFERENCE

  • Date: 22nd January 2013
  • author: Robert Hatcher
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DAY ONE: ”Setting the Scene” with four speakers and two tours of RBG Edinburgh.

The first speaker was Sara Oldfield, Secretary general of BGCI, who gave a review of the findings outlined in the IUCN/BGCI Red List of Rhododendron species.
Dr. David Chamberlain followed gaving a talk on “A Temperate perspective of
Rhododendron Conservation” which in the main focussed on Chinese Rhododendron Conservation issues.

After morning tea Dr. George Argent presented "Vireya Rhododendron Conservation" which was a review of the work he has carried out over more than thirty years researching Vireya species.

A discussion panel comprising the morning’s speakers raised a lot of questions but no conclusions. Many proposals were made as to what could be done such as using BGCI as a conduit for Rhododendron species conservation program initiation and a hub for networking among interested groups.
After lunch David Knott, curator of RBGE Living Collections at Inverleith, gave a presentation on RBGE perspective involved in conserving their Rhododendron Collections.

The rest of the afternoon saw tours of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's:
a) the Vireya collection, both public and non public access collections conducted
by Dr. George Argent and
b) the outdoor collections with David Chamberlain discussing issues to do with temperate species held at RBGE. Both tours focussed on those species under threat in the
wild. Much of what he said was in relation to new species identification and the need for proper verification.
Sir Peter Hutchinson gave a resume of the day.

DAY TWO: “A perspective from the wild on Rhododendron Conservation” with speakers giving presentations on the issues surrounding Rhododendron Conservation in China by :
1. Dr. Gao Lianming from KIB in Yunnan,
2. Kenneth Cox standing in for Dr Ashibo Mao from Arunachal Pradesh giving a modified
presentation with an overview of the Sub Continental issues of Conserving their species,
3. Dr Wigiuna Rahman from Cibodas Botanic garden, LIPI, West Java, Indonesia on their Vireya conservation. This was followed by a speakers’ panel and questions from the floor. After morning tea came the Ex-Situ conservation perspectives from Nth America, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia with:
4. Steve Hootman, Rhododendron Species Foundation executive director and curators RSBG Seattle, Washington on the work they are doing in collecting and growing species,
5. Sherla Bertleman from Hawaii on growing Vireyas in Hawaii,
6. Dr. Marion Mackay on New Zealand’s assessment of what they have in both Public and Private collections
7. Robert Hatcher with an Australian perspective of Ex Situ Conservation with an overview of the gardens involved in growing Rhododendrons and including the trials and tribulations of trying to collect Rhododendron lochiae and viriosum.

After lunch Dr Hartwig Schepker, Scientific Director, Bremen Rhododendron Park and Botanic Garden gave a European perspective of what is being done to collate all the data on collections in Europe. Kennth Cox gave a horticulturist’s perspective of Rhododendron species conservation in British gardens.
Ian Sinclair, president of the Species Conservation Group, gave a snapshot of their work.

Following afternoon tea there was a general discussion with a panel comprising: Sara Oldfield, David Chamberlain, George Argent, Hartwig Schepker, Steve
Hootman and Gao Lianming, to work through a way forward for conservation of Rhododendrons. Most of the panel agreed there needed to be a lot more done on identifying the unnamed species that have been recently discovered and verification of the many that have been named where there is some doubt on their taxonomy. (more old fashioned systematic botany).

There were no conclusive new strategies on conservation programs beyond what is currently being done, apart from continuing to communicate and try to set up a coordinated approach, using BGCI as a conduit.

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