Plant Exploration in the Patagonian Steppe

Patagonia is one of four steppe regions worldwide with a climate similar to the Eastern plains. The diverse Patagonia steppe flora is poorly represented in horticulture and could potentially do well in our semi-arid landscapes. Since 2008, Denver Botanic Gardens has been building relationship with Argentinian officials and local botanic gardens to conduct plant exploration and research in the Patagonian steppe.

In 2011 and 2014, Dan Johnson, Curator of Native Plants and Mike Kintgen, Curator of Alpine Collections, went on two plant exploration trips. They covered over 4,000 miles of roads and documented Patagonian flora with over 15,000 photographs and 80 waypoints. Funded by Plant Select®, these trips were a quest to identify plants that could be sustainably grown in Colorado as potential landscape plants.

In April 2015, Dr. Sarada Krishnan and Mike Kintgen went on a 10-day trip to Argentina. This trip was to work with local agencies to acquire the right permits to collect and import plant material for trialing in Colorado. We participated in numerous meetings to create collaborative partnerships with various institutions.

Institutions that we met with included: Instituto National de Tecnologia Agropecuria (INTA), which is the equivalent of the USDA here, both in Buenos Aires and Bariloche; Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro (UNRN); Administration de Parques Nacionales (APN) and Jardin Botanico de Bariloche.

Significant progress was made during the meetings and we are in the process of drafting an agreement with INTA for joint trialing of plant material and exchange of information. An agreement is also in the works with APN for collecting plant material from national park sites that can be used for display and education at Denver Botanic Gardens.

We signed a general partnership agreement with UNRN. Future agreements will involve internship for UNRN students at Denver Botanic Gardens as well as research collaboration.

The Bariloche Botanic Garden is currently in the process of revising their master plan. We will collaborate with them by reviewing their plan and assisting them with implementing the plan.