Kyoto Garden To Build Greenhouse Where Visitors Can Observe Endangered Species

Kyoto garden to build greenhouse where visitors can observe endangered speciesAn arboretum here will open a new facility in April where visitors can directly observe efforts by researchers to preserve rare species of plants.
Kyoto Botanical Gardens will have a special greenhouse where visitors will be able to see plant species listed as "endangered" in the Environment Ministry's Red Data Book. The greenhouse will be the first of its kind in Japan.

The greenhouse will be erected near the garden's Kamogawa gate, which was constructed in 2013, and will cover an area of about 140 square meters. The sides of the greenhouse will be made of glass, enabling visitors to take a peek at the endangered plants from the outside.

To deal with Kyoto's sweltering summers, the roof will be made of special glass that can block infrared rays, and the interior of the greenhouse will be kept moist using fog machines and fans.

The botanical garden already has another greenhouse, which was built in 1992, where visitors can look inside, but it houses more common species of plants. Most of the endangered plant species are currently kept in a cultivation room where public access is restricted.

The project was conceived to preserve endangered species while at the same time educate the public about the diversity of the plant kingdom by allowing direct observation of endangered species.

The garden currently is home to about 300 of the 1,779 vascular plant species currently categorized as endangered in the Red Data Book.

Among such rarities are Asarum pellucidum, a rare spices of wild ginger that grows only on Amami-Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture with less than 100 examples in the wild; and Tricyrtis macrantha, a member of the lily family that features yellow bell-shaped flowers in the wilderness of Kochi Prefecture.

Some examples are unique to prefectures or locales, including Patrinia triloba var. takeuchiana, a honeysuckle that grows only on Mount Aobasan straddling Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, and Takahama, Fukui Prefecture; and Rumex nepalensis var. andreanus, a kind of buckwheat that grows only along the Kibunegawa river in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward.

The garden's operators plan to increase their collection of endangered plant species to 500 in the near future by having employees visit their natural habitats. Obtaining specimens from universities, research institutions and collectors is being considered as well.

The garden's botanists also anticipate using the new facility to collaborate with universities and research organizations in reintroducing plants that are extinct in the wild back into their natural habitats.

"When people hear the term 'endangered species,' most of them tend to focus on animals," said Junichi Nagasawa, the director of the garden. "But we want visitors to understand the rarity of endangered plants and how they are influenced significantly by changes in their environment.

"We want visitors to also know that a botanical garden is supported through numerous tedious tasks by revealing the employees' activities inside the cultivation room."