If you had asked me 10 years ago whether I would ever create a botanical garden, I probably would have laughed at the idea. How times have changed! I have always been passionate about medicinal plants, but I never really thought about what that involves in a reforestation setting. Worse, it never really occurred to me that there are numerous tree and plant species that are endangered, and that losing them means possibly losing the cure for a serious disease. As I got more and more involved with tree planting and conservation in the Orinoco River basin, I realized that numerous trees there have amazing medicinal and alimentary properties. It is sad to note that our knowledge regarding those rain forest trees is being lost, as the use of big-pharmaceutical chemical drugs replaces traditional wisdom of natural cures and therapies around the world. Thanks to our conservation work with the establishment of the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza, I came into contact with analog forestry folks who told me about an interesting program being coordinated by the Missouri Botanical Gardens in the United States. They are actively looking for partners around the world who will establish botanical gardens dedicated to the preservation and conservation of traditional medicinal and alimentary trees and plants. We found a site in the Reserva that offered a wide range of features ideal for the proposed garden. It had terrain that included low lying areas, well-drained areas, areas that inundate, serranía (the local rocky hills that dot the Orinoco River basin), all bordered by one of our fabulous morichals. We agreed that we had found the site for our Jardín Botánico de Semillas Sagradas (Sacred Seeds in Spanish) project. Once we planned everything out, we realized that we would be planning over 16 hectares (40 acres) for this project. Somewhat stunned by the size of what we were about to do, a friend of ours joked that we were going to be busy for the next 20 years. Armed with the topography plans, we contacted someone we knew in Edmonton, Canada, who had won an environmental prize for landscape design. Arinna Gritanni agreed to come to Colombia for 2 months as a volunteer and worked on a design for the Sacred Seeds garden. We also met Francisco Antonio Castro Lima, a renowned indigenous botanist and agronomist from the Amazon region of Colombia, who is also considered one of the foremost botanical experts on Orinoco River basin flora. Francisco agreed to act as a consultant, and has provided an entire nursery of native medicinal and alimentary trees he started for us in Villavicencio. The reserve was visited by Maxime Renaudin of Tree-Nation, when he visited the La Pedregoza plantation in January 2013. Both he and his wife Amparo were taken by the idea of a Sacred Seeds garden. Next thing I knew we had Tree-Nation backing, which is a tremendous help in making this project a reality. We were also aided by a donation of four solar-powered water pumps from A. Raymond Corporate North America, Inc. I can now say that we are truly well on our way to creating an amazing botanical garden with a unique focus, one that will benefit all of humanity. Article and images (c) Dexter Dombro 2013
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