Headstart visits Plant Conservation Initiative at  Botanic Garden
March 24, 2017
Headstart visits Plant Conservation Initiative at Botanic Garden

Headstart Pre-school recently undertook a field trip to the Botanic Gardens to tour the grounds and learn about the research taking place there. Twenty-two students and three teachers were on hand to learn about the propagation techniques being used for the Soufrière tree, the national flower of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). There is currently only one known specimen of this tree in existence, and it is found at the Botanic Gardens.

In January 2017, Gordon Shallow, the curator of the Gardens at the National Parks, Rivers, and Beaches Authority commenced a plant propagation programme. The programme is being made possible through grant funding support from the SVG Preservation Fund for the Lignum Vitae and the Soufrière tree as flagship species for conservation and biodiversity preservation. This is in an attempt to re-introduce and promote the sustainability of these two species.

Currently, the two methods being used to propagate the Soufrière tree are live cutting propagation and air layering. The live cutting method involves removing a fresh branch from the living tree, applying rooting hormone to the branch, and transplanting this branch into a growth medium. Research suggests that the branch will sprout its own roots and eventually become its own sapling. The second method, air layering, involves removing the bark while a branch is still on the actual tree, applying root hormone to the exposed area, and covering the area with a growth medium, potting soil for example, and then covering with foil or plastic. Research again suggests that the exposed area will sprout roots. Once the branch sprouts its own roots it can then be transplanted and begin growing on its own.

The Headstart pre-schoolers were exposed to the methods of propagation and toured the Botanic Gardens, including the nursery where the transplanted saplings are located. The students were able to identify the Soufriere tree saplings and learned about the importance of the tree to the history of SVG.