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Rotary Happenings: Rotarians learn about mission of Naples Botanical Garden

By Staff | Sep 9, 2021

Have you ever seen the elusive and endangered ghost orchid? The Naples Botanical Garden has one that can be admired — a plant so special that there are less than 2,000 left in the wild. Recently, Naples Botanical Garden Interpretive Specialist Emily Kless shared the background and mission of the garden in a fascinating presentation to the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club.

The Naples Botanical Garden is a not-for-profit garden and research facility that opened in 2009. Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education — more like a museum of beautifully alive plants. It consists of 170 acres of garden with five different native Florida habitats, two miles of walking paths, and some of the most beautiful design gardens you will ever see. The design gardens include plants from the tropics and subtropics, including a Brazilian garden, Southeast Asia garden, Caribbean garden, Florida garden, succulent garden and magnificent orchid garden.

The Naples Botanical Garden on the surface level strives to display plants to help create an interest and appreciation for the plants from its patrons. Yet, what many don’t realize is that the plants are actually curated for beauty, as well as scientific conservation and educational purposes. Working on getting people to fall in love with the beauty of the plants, deliciousness of the plants and wonder of the plants will help in conservation efforts. If people don’t understand the value of plants, they will never be inclined to protect them. Plants make up 57 percent of the federally endangered species list, however only 4 percent of federal funding is earmarked for them.

Currently, the garden’s largest endeavor is the construction of a horticulture campus. It is a world-class institution on the visitor side; however, the behind-the-scenes side is in need of an upgrade in order to continue the many ongoing conservation projects, to house backup collections of plants and seeds, and to grow some of the most rare collections of plants. Plants are becoming extinct at an alarming rate and the need to conserve, educate and protect is real.

A Naples native, Kless spent three years at Auburn University before transferring and graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University. She started at the Naples Botanical Garden as an education intern. Her areas of professional interest include plant evolution and adaptation; birding; sustainable agriculture; and accessibility, diversity, equity and inclusion within the environmental field.

Naples Botanical Garden Interpretive Specialist Emily Kless was the guest speaker at the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's recent meeting. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club holds a meeting on Fridays at 7:30 a.m. at The Community House, at 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, and via Zoom; doors open at 7 a.m. To attend in person, email Bill Harkey at William.Harkey@gmail.com by the Tuesday before the meeting. For more information, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary.