The Adopt-a-Rare-Plant program originated in the mid-1980s under the auspices of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program but, for some reason, languished and faded away after a few years. It was revived in 2011 as a joint effort by the Colorado Native Plant Society, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
The goal of the program was, and still is, to relocate and update the historical occurrences of globally rare (G2) plant species with precise mapping, accurate plant counts and current habitat conditions. Historical occurrences are defined as plant occurrences not seen and recorded in more than 20 years.
As one of the NatureServe network of 75+ natural heritage programs in Latin and North America, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) is responsible for tracking the location, and ranking the status of all of the rare and imperiled species in Colorado. 75% of Colorado's imperiled species are plants, and 520 are tracked by CNHP. Needless to say, with a botanical team of five people, it is impossible for CNHP to achieve this task.
Therein lies the reason for the Adopt-a-Rare-Plant Program (ARP). ARP offers interested volunteers the opportunity to make an important contribution to the protection of rare plants in Colorado. It is perfect for people who love to get out and explore, improve their botanical skills, and meet wonderful like-minded people. You don't have to be an expert botanist to participate in this program. Full training is provided by the Denver Botanic Gardens in their class held once a year, either on the east or west slope of Colorado.
Once you are trained, the Natural Heritage Program will assign you a plant species to track and will provide you with all of the materials you will need to find and record your species. You will be given old element occurrence records, which (often poorly) document the location of your plants; To help you identify the plant you will be given photographs, illustrations and descriptions. You will also be given the opportunity to study the plant in local herbaria. And then with a group of your new friends you will venture out into Colorado's wonderful countryside to try to find and collect information on your plants.
Since 2011, the Rare Plant Monitoring Program has trained 81 volunteers, visited 60 sites where 34 historical occurrences and 4 known occurrences were updated, 2 new occurrences were found, and 864 hours were volunteered.
So adopt your rare plant this season!
The 2015 class was held at the Denver Botanic Gardens on June, and will probably occur near that date in 2016. It is a joint Adopt-a-Rare Plant and Rare Plant Monitoring Program class. You can take the class without obligation and then at the end decide whether you want to join the Adopt-a-Rare-Plant Program or become a rare plant monitor.
Or you can contact Jill Handwerk, the coordinator of the program, at CNHP:
Jill.Handwerk@colostate.edu Tel: (970) 491-7331