One of the many benefits of being a professional horticulturist is the chance to meet and talk with fascinating and plant passionate people. In September 2014, during a visit to Brittany, France, Patrick Regnault met with Stephane Buord, Scientific Director of International Action at the Brest National Botanic Conservatorium, to look how one man in the 70s initiated the creation of a world class institution that conserves endangered plant species.
In the early 70s, Jean Yves Lesouef saw a need to save threatened plant species not only from his native Brittany but from around the world and in particular the unique endemic flora of the world’s oceanic islands.
In 1974, he succeeded in getting the Greater Brest Council, the Foundation for Studying and Protecting the Nature of Brittany (SEPNB) and later the newly created Ministry of Environment on board.
The site they chose is situated in North Western Brittany in a protected valley, the Stang Alar, with a natural spring that feeds into the sheltered Brest harbour. In 1975, the Brest Botanical Conservatorium became the world’s first institution to specialise in the conservation of endangered wild plant species. In 1990 the French government recognised it as a National Botanic Conservatorium. The Conservatorium works in two main manners – ex situ and in situ.