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  Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society

A few words of introduction from your new editor

Roy Mottram

  The following was originally printed in the March issue of CactusWorld.  The official journal of the British Cactus and Succulent Society

The Society adapts to the mid-noughties by repositioning itself in a changing world with a new-look journal.

Now would seem a useful moment to take a brief look at the history of the Society and to take stock of current events.

As Britain emerged from a postwar period of austerity in 1945, the formation of the Society was met with great enthusiasm, and membership grew rapidly from a small group of Yorkshire stalwarts into a national institution, and indeed eventually well beyond our own national boundaries. The momentum of that period of early growth continued non-stop for the next 35 years.

Then throughout the nineteen seventies a new wave of interest in the subject of plant conservation emerged, culminating in the enactment of legislation in 1980 to protect, amongst other plants, all cacti and certain other succulents in the wild. Legislative powers were taken by all nations to control the movement of plants internationally, and in the case of USA and Mexico, seeds too.

This proved to be the dominating influence over events in the cactus world for the next 25 years, and the net effect of this legislation was to virtually close down all international trade in cacti, whether of garden origin or not.

Apart from that direct restriction, the collecting of plants that are the subject of protective legislation will inevitably be perceived as being not quite politically correct, and it was this negative image that caused many potential new cactus enthusiasts to turn away and take up some other pastime instead. As a consequence, every specialist succulent plant society throughout the world has seen a slow but steady decline of membership as they relied heavily on the continued goodwill of the membership from the period prior to 1980 who were already addicted to their plants. That downturn has accelerated in recent years, because a higher proportion of the ageing membership are now sadly joining their precursors in that great greenhouse in the sky.

On the positive side, one benefit of this shrinkage has been to draw people closer together, and the Society now looks and feels like a great extended family, where everyone knows pretty much everyone else, well beyond any geographical boundaries.

We cannot deny that the objects of our affection are endangered, and that in a few cases, wild plant collecting has had a very small part to play in that. However, the regulation of the trade has taken the eye off the main culprit, which was, and increasingly still is, the interfering presence of humans disturbing and destroying habitats in situ. The wholesale destruction of local habitats of succulent plants is now taking place at an alarming rate, ranging from the removal of entire hills for stone for road-building to goats and even vandalism.

Since the legislation was enacted, world population has almost doubled yet again, and will continue to do so until nature corrects the imbalance. We therefore face a seemingly insoluble problem with the destruction of our plants in habitat continuing at an increasing rate to the point of many extinctions. Many subpopulations, including some all-important type localities (e.g. Mammillaria marksiana) have already disappeared, leaving only a small gene pool from the original ecotype still being propagated in cultivation.

All of this means that ex-situ conservation has an increasingly important part to play, and where you, as cultivators, occupy centre stage. The preservation of a species in your greenhouses may well represent its final chance of survival. Few other  ideals could be greater!

The need of plant propagators as a means of conservation is clearly recognised by the National Council for the Preservation of Plants and Gardens, whose outstanding achievement was the establishment of  the National Collections scheme. Several of our members take part with collections in this scheme at no small cost to themselves. So our Society also needs to take pride in the fact that we too stand for conservation in action by preserving rare species in our collections, and that is the message that should be carried to the public at every opportunity.

You will have noticed that your journal has now adopted the title of CactusWorld, which partly reflects our more internationally outward approach, and also offers a more friendly face to newcomers to the hobby and connect with the public. Basically, CactusWorld exists to entertain and inform, while its sister yearbook Bradleya carries the more intellectually challenging material for the more serious student of succulents.

Why not show off your new-look CactusWorld to your gardening friends, get them hooked – and then reel them in as new members!

Definition of an editor:

“An editor is one who separates the wheat from the chaff and prints the chaff” (Adlai Stevenson, US politician).