Plant Diversity ›› 2011, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (01): 123-131.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1143.2011.10235

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The Evolving Role of Botanical Gardens and Natural Areas: A Floristic Case Study from Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada

David  A.GALBRAITH1, Natalie  E.IWANYCKI1, Brechann  V.McGOEY1, Jamie  McGREGOR2   

  1. 1 Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, ON, Canada; 2 University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada;
    3 Duke University, Durham, NC, USA; 4 Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, USA
  • Received:2010-12-09 Online:2011-01-21 Published:2010-12-27


As leaders calling for the conservation of the world′s plants, botanical gardens protect plants within living collections. Many also study, manage and restore plants in natural habitats. Royal Botanical Gardens (Ontario, Canada) has integrated both horticultural and natural heritage in its mission for decades. Envisioned by municipal leaders in the 1920s as a combination of nature sanctuaries and civic gardens, RBG now includes forests, wetlands and other habitats, gardens and built spaces. Today RBG is Canada′s largest botanical garden on the basis of area. In the 1950s RBG began to inventory plant diversity. The checklist of spontaneous vascular plants now exceeds 1170 species, of which 752 are native. This is 37% of Ontario′s native vascular plants and 19% of the native vascular flora of Canada. The RBG nature sanctuaries are among the richest locations in Canada for species-level diversity. We examine the history of floristic exploration within RBG and compare plant species-area relationships among protected natural areas in Ontario. This comparison supports the contention that the nature sanctuaries, and in particular Cootes Paradise, could be considered an important area for plants in Canada, and relative to the nation′s flora, a biodiversity hotspot. The fact that a candidate vascular plant hotspot for Canada lies within a major botanical garden presents opportunities for raising public awareness of the importance of plant diversity, as well as focusing attention on the scientific and conservation biology needs of communities and individual species in this area.

Key words: Botanical garden, Ontario, Natural areas, Biodiversity, Species-area curve, Species richness

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