James T, our current scholar from the UK, will be returning home within the month. Here is his latest blog …
Salvia bracteata has become a bit of a celebrity here at the moment … currently being propagated in the Gardens after becoming extinct in Israel, it seems to be popping up in environmental blogs, community project newspaper articles – and even on TV. This is one of the species on the Red/ Rare Plants List which I have been looking after and propagating and, despite its famous nature, it is not too much of a diva to look after.
The Gardens’ plants were collected from the last 42 locations around Jerusalem before becoming extinct in the country due to urban development. The plant grows in arid Mediterranean scrubland on limestone and once-mountainous fallow fields.
The plants geographical distribution is from Turkey, Syria, Northern Iraq and Western Iran, down to Jordan and Israel. The plant may not be the most striking compared with others in the Genus – but in cultivation has a relatively dense form that can be used towards the edge of a mixed border.
More plant info can be found in the Red Data Book on the Endangered Plants of Israel: http://redlist.parks.org.il/taxa/Salvia%20bracteata/ (press the small English link on the left).
The buzz around the plant is coming from conservation methods and the community engagement that is taking place. With the help of Ori Fragman-Sapir (Scientific Director), the JBG Hub (for Social and Environmental Action) team have been organising planting events in the Gazelle Park not too far from the Gardens and its original habitat. Planting events have already taken place using some of our propagated material, with more on the way – hopefully 300 plants from cuttings and 50 from seed.
Here’s the link to the JBG Hub’sFacebook Hebrew article: https://www.facebook.com/JBGHub/posts/836235349832637
I have been tasked with propagating these and, since mid-December, I have been taking cuttings from the mature specimens found in the Gardens, making sure only to take 50% or less of the existing material so not to hold back the plant too much for the next growing season. I had a wonderful demonstration on how to propagate soft wood cuttings from Shlomit Goren, one of the Gardens’ volunteers, who also volunteers at a commercial nursery. According to Maya (our nursery manager) there is no one who has a higher success rate when it comes to cuttings and, after seeing the ones she did 4 weeks later with fabulous root structures (ignoring my attempts), I have to agree. All cuttings were put into cups, with the nursery propagation mix (Standard Mix – Perlite – Vermiculite in equal measure), with rooting hormone and put under the misters in the Nursery on the heated benches. I found that different batches have taken around 2 months to produce a good enough root system ready to be potted on or put into a Standard Mix with Osmocote. Now into March we are on our way to producing the desired 300.
50 Salvia bracteata are also coming from seeds, collected from the Gardens last year and soaked in gibberellic acid to aid germination. The high germination rate means we had more than enough germinations to pot on and they are all growing well outside. In fact we have spare germination if anyone wants them, a list of spare rare plant seedlings has been sent around to other gardens.
This activity has sparked media interest with a newspaper article – and a TV spot, as I had a camera crew filming me one afternoon while potting on some of the cuttings (I felt like I was on Gardener’s World).
Link to newspaperarticle: http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/science/.premium-1.2855102
It’s not all about Salvia bracteata though – many Salvias are flowering up and down the country – from Salvia Lanigera in the Negev to Salvia fruticosa in the coastal areas of Haifa. In the Gardens two species have caught my eye – Salvia multicaulis (also on the endangered Red List) and Salvia indica – the latter is a little bit showy and a good geometric form with bold foliage. In my lunch break I have taken advantage of the wonderful weather (compared with that back home I hear) and sketched them for future record.
It’s great to know some of my work out here is benefitting this particular plant community and the human one also.
All the photos and sketches are the copyright of James Toole.