Public Release: 

New England Wild Flower Society honors leader of global seed banking program

Inaugural Founders' Medal to be presented to Dr. Paul P. Smith on March 26

New England Wild Flower Society

New England Wild Flower Society, the nation's oldest plant conservation organization, announced today that it will award its inaugural Founders' Medal to Dr. Paul P. Smith, until recently Head of the Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in Great Britain. The award will be presented at a dinner hosted by the Society and the British Consulate-General Boston at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, MA, on March 26.

Dr. Smith, newly appointed Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, was the head of the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) from 2005 to 2014. The MSB aims to conserve seed from all plant species as insurance against the risk of extinction in their native habitats and for research, forest and habitat restoration, food security, and sustainable livelihoods.

During his tenure, the MSB conserved seeds from more than 25,000 plant species, achieved the first milestone of securing seed from 10 percent of the world's plants, and was on track to bank seeds of 25 percent of the world's flora by 2020. Under Dr. Smith's leadership, the MSB expanded the partnership network to 170 institutions in 80 countries; trained 2,000 seed biologists around the world; and established important initiatives to adapt agriculture to climate change and to increase the capacity of local communities, primarily in Africa, to conserve their natural resources and to store, propagate, and sustainably grow plant species to meet human needs.

"Dr. Smith's leadership of the MSB built an effective global partnership and has raised awareness in all corners of the world of the importance of native plants and plant conservation," said Debbi Edelstein, Executive Director of New England Wild Flower Society. "Seed banking of both rare and common plants is critical to preserving biological diversity," said added. " In a world in which plants--the foundation of all life on the planet--face a multitude of threats ranging from development to disease to climate change, we must preserve the genetic material while continuing the hard work of conserving plants in their natural landscapes."

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New England Wild Flower Society is a partner in national and international initiatives to bank seed, and aims to preserve seed from the 3,300 occurrences of the 388 rare and endangered plants in New England, including 62 species that are globally rare.

About the Founders' Medal

The Founders' Medal honors exceptional leadership and achievement in the conservation and promotion of healthy, biologically diverse landscapes. It recognizes the group of women who, in 1900, founded the Society for the Protection of Native Plants (later New England Wild Flower Society) to stop the destruction of the New England landscape wrought by the large-scale harvesting of wild plants for the florist trade and seasonal decoration.

About New England Wild Flower Society

The mission of New England Wild Flower Society is to conserve and promote the region's native plants to ensure healthy, biologically diverse landscapes. Founded in 1900 as the Society for the Protection of Native Plants, it is the nation's oldest plant conservation organization and a recognized leader in native plant conservation, horticulture, and education. The Society's headquarters, Garden in the Woods, is a renowned native plant botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, that attracts visitors from all over the world. From this base, 25 staff and more than 700 volunteers work throughout New England to monitor and protect rare and endangered plants, collect and preserve seeds to ensure biological diversity, detect and control invasive species, conduct research, and offer a range of educational programs. The Society also operates a native plant nursery at Nasami Farm in western Massachusetts and has eight sanctuaries in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont that are open to the public.

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