It may not seem important at the time, but when we are caught up in the excitement of acquiring a new cycad for our collections, most of us would not give a thought of recording the information that may accompany that acquisition. All too often I’ve been asked to broker the sale of a private collection that has no comprehensive list or inventory recorded. This makes the job of identification increasingly difficult, especially with the addition of so many single and multi-generation hybrids that are being produced by hobbyists and growers alike. Since most private collections I have encountered do not have plant ID tags, I identify each plant as best as I can. Typically I feel comfortable with about 80-85% of my identifications, but I almost always come upon a few potential hybrids or species that I have never seen before. It has become a standard practice for my company to state that all plant identification is ultimately up to the buyer to determine, so as to avoid claims of misrepresentation.
As cycad collectors we should all be aware that, given proper care, nearly all cycads have the potential to outlive us and many generations of our families after us. Since cycads tend to gain significant value with the passing of time, cycad collections that are part of an estate are often viewed as a valuable asset. However few people other than collectors are willing to care for them. For this reason older cycads (if it were known) have likely had several homes in their long lives. With that in mind it is important that we as cycad stewards leave our collections in order. (See “Are You a Good Cycad Steward?” blog from September 2012) It is like writing a will; no one wants to think about doing it, but it helps to ensure that the plant material will be properly taken care of. There will be the day when either a non-plant person or an experienced cycad collector will be either taking over the care of your collection, or examining it for the purposes of buying or brokering it. One of the most important means of making sure your cycads will continue their journey to their next steward is a cycad collection inventory. This is important whether you have a significant and valuable collection, a modest younger collection of seedlings, or something in between,
The Essentials of a Comprehensive Cycad Inventory
- Plant Identification (Genus and species)
- Source (who gave, sold, traded, where was it collected)
- Date Acquired (even if you can only supply the year)
- Size of caudex when acquired (diameter and/or height)
- Plant Sex (if known)
- Year of seed germination (if known)
- Any significant features (characteristics that may be out of the ordinary)
- Amount paid (This may be noteworthy for any future plant or offset sale.)
- Photo ID and description of where the plant may be found, if in the ground. May also be helpful if plant is in a pot.
You may not choose to record all of the categories listed above, and you may wish to add some of your own, if they are not listed. However, it is important to record as much useful information as possible.
I would like to make a special note regarding #9 above. You may wish to produce your cycad provenance/inventory in the form of a video, whereby you digitally record an audio and video record of the individual plants in your collection, as well as a visual record of the plant’s location in the garden.
And last, but certainly not least, it is important to identify the provenance of your plants (#2), especially for what I refer to as “The Heritage Plants.” (See “The ‘Heritage Cycad’ Advantage” blog from May 2012) These are plants that are known to have come out of habitat. They are the survivors that have endured all that nature offers. They have good genes, and haven’t been pampered all their lives with the many advantages of human cultivation.
Proper cycad provenance records are useful to cycad culture in general, and to assist those who come after you in selling or caring for your collection. We hope the practice of keeping accurate records will improve the efficiency of your stewardship.
Grow and prosper,
Keith and Laurie Huber