Winner of the Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust in Memory of William Brake

A passion for plants

Christopher Columbus described Cuba as “the most beautiful land that human eyes had ever seen”. In one short journey, a visitor can experience deserts and rainforests, lowlands and mountains, valleys and cliffs; all uniquely embellished by an ancient and rare flora. Luis, Head of Conservation of the Cuban Botanical Society, launched the Planta! Campaign in 2012 as a nationwide effort to inspire the preservation of this diverse mosaic of plant life.

Luis Torres profile

The Caribbean’s richest flora

Cuba hosts one of the four richest island floras of the world and supports 7,500 species of flowering plant, more than half of that of the entire Caribbean. 53% of all Cuban plant species are endemic to the country. Plants have cultural, economic and medicinal value and perform crucial ecosystem services.

Planta!

Undervalued

Poor awareness of the importance, value and perilous situation of Cuba’s flora means that allocation of resources for conservation is insufficient and exacerbated by poor enforcement of legislation and inadequate commitment of citizens and decision-makers. A lack of skilled conservation practitioners at local level also reduces the effectiveness of conservation actions, limiting the development of local initiatives.

reintroduction of an endemic cactus to the wild

His project aims to:

  • Educate Cubans about the importance of their native flora and inspire them to conserve it.
  • Build capacity for developing and implementing community-based conservation projects.
  • Connect conservationists nationwide to create a network where resources and expertise can be exchanged.

Why it matters:

  • Cuba has the greatest plant diversity of the Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspot.
  • The endemism of Cuban plant communities can reach up to 85%, making their conservation of global importance.
  • Mining, urban development and unsustainable harvesting threaten Cuban plants.

“The greatest contributions come from local people who are encouraged, committed and trained.”

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