One of the tasks that I was assigned to, was the collection of dyer’s plants of botanical origin. For this project I would need at least one kilogram from six different species, to share it with laboratory partners involved in CHARISMA work package 10. My focus would lie in botanical gardens within the Netherlands and some university gardens in Spain and Portugal. At first sight it looked rather like a simple ‘write-a-mail-and-get-your-stuff’ job. The opposite turned out truer, though fascinating. I started by collecting the names of all botanical gardens in the Netherlands; of course also the e-mails and phone numbers of their directors and/or collections managers (in their jargon ‘Prefectus Horti’).
I was soon confronted with the difficult situation in which many of the Dutch botanical gardens find themselves. So, I have seen that two of each five botanical gardens in the Netherlands are poorly maintained. It is sometimes also difficult to get an up-to-date database of their collections because of the lack of hired taxonomists. I have seen temporary fuss of collection management in three major Dutch botanical gardens, because of budget cuts, also the closure of the 300 year old Vrije Universiteit Botanical Garden, because it must give way to a new building, and even the botanic gardens of Wageningen University awaits the same fate.
The Netherlands has 112 gardens, of those 10 arboretums and 25 independent botanical gardens three zoo-connected botanical gardens and 4 university gardens (incl. those closing). A respectable number of gardens for a small country like the Netherlands. ‘A luxury problem if one or two gardens have to close’ someone said. For most botanic gardens scientific research is not a primary task, they are more focused in visitor numbers; luckily they do try to put some effort in educational programs. It is questionable though which gardens do matter to us when it comes to scientific contribution. So for CHARISMA there are 2 University gardens left in the Netherlands that see science as a primary task, but only one of them has dyers’ plants in their possession and can contribute, of course with one small sample of this plant.
Well now nursery gardens in stead of botanical gardens, let’s see how that turns out…