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Have you ever been to a Talking Forest? Do you have a beautiful backyard and want to create a sanctuary or some type of plant preserve? Are you concerned about our harvesting practices, loss of habitat for plants, especially medicinal species and want to do more?  United Plants Savers, a grassroots organization committed to preserving plants, is for you!

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Susan Leopold this week, UpS Executive Director. She’s knowledgeable, passionate about the issues facing plants especially with the increased use of plant species for food and medicine. A few years ago I visited the UpS sanctuary in Ohio. At the left is a photo of the entrance to their “Talking Forest” which was really wonderful. Trees and plants, marked with information sprinkled this walking trail, raising awareness about our valuable plant species.

Herbalism, the study of plants for their medicinal uses has been a passion of mine for many years. What could I find in my backyard that could help with common ailments like colds, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and inflammation without having to rely on pharmacies? Remember, I am a nurse by training and have respect for the ways conventional medicine works and helps. But I prefer to harvest my own herbs for minor conditions so I can monitor habitat, conserve resources such as water and energy from gas-powered mowers, converting lawn space into a more natural landscape. When I did just that, allowed part of my backyard grasses to grow without mowing, I was surprised by the variety of species and critters, insects that showed up. They taught me much about their lifespans, their uses and how they cooperate in a meadow- like situation.

“These Are Exciting Times for Herbalists. We are witnessing the art of herbalism rapidly regaining its rightful place in the American tradition of health and healing. However, as herbalism flourishes and winds its way into the “mainstream” of America, it is eliciting a unique set of problems and concerns. 

Where once herbal enterprises were few and far between, it is now a competitive marketplace which has increased the demand on wild medicinal plant resources. Furthermore, other countries with an uninterrupted tradition of herbalism are experiencing a severe shortage of medicinal plants and look to the North American continent for supplying these herbs. This increased usage along with habitat destruction is causing an ever-increasing shortage of wild plant resources, including some of our most treasured medicinal species.” (UpS)

Important message, with profound implications. UpS has a species at risk list of plants on their website I encourage all gardeners, landscapers to review. UpS has added a new tool: At risk assessment tool: It’s available for free on their website.

UpS also created a botanical sanctuary network across the United States. Folks like you and me who have taken care of backyards, maybe even forested areas can participate in the sanctuary network. There are over 90 folks participating and some are open to the public. I highly recommend stopping at UpS’ sanctuary in Ohio where intense efforts in research and plant propagation continue today for American ginseng, goldenseal and more. They offer a beautiful state map where you can find sanctuaries close to you. If there are none, how about starting one? Our fellow critters, insects, and bugs need habitat. Wildflowers, often medicinal, provide beauty and sustenance, homes for much of our wildlife.

(photo: courtesy Judith Dreyer: goldenseal)

I have been a member off and on of United Plant Savers, UpS, since it began nearly 25 years ago. It’s an amazing grassroots organization that seeks to preserve plant species especially medicinal, edible ones for future generations. When I taught at Western Connecticut State University I gave this advice to my students: if you use herbal supplements, drink herbal teas whether you can grow some or not, please support an organization like UpS. Every dollar helps support plant research, plant preservation, and education concerning issues and trends facing the harvesting and use of plants for health and well-being.

Have you created a sanctuary in your backyard? Send me comments or a short summary of what you have accomplished, the joys and successes. I enjoy hearing from you.

Enjoy. Judith




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