Sacred Seeds Sanctuaries At Home and Around the World

by Linda Wiggen Kraft


The seeds of plants hold not only genetic material, but also the key to the past and future of human culture and survival. Plants provide food, medicine, materials for tools, clothing, and crafts; and in some cases spiritual companionship. The knowledge of specific plants, their healing powers and other uses, is threatened with extinction because elders and healers of many cultures are dying out, while at the same time many of the plants themselves are endangered. Our current and future medicines are based on these plants and the knowledge about them.

To keep these plants and what is known about them alive, a network of living gardens around the world has been formed. These gardens are called Sacred Seeds Sanctuaries (www.sacredseedssanctuary.org). Each unique garden sustains the life of traditional plants, local habitat and culture of the people who live in these communities. These gardens are spread throughout the world in Costa Rica, Peru, Madagascar, India, Viet Nam and the United States. The Native American Prairie and Medicinal garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden has been designated one of six Sacred Seeds gardens in this country. The others in the U.S. include gardens at Organic Gardening’s Rodale Institute, Sitting Bull University, Crow Creek Indian Reservation, Intervale Abeki Heritage Garden, Bastyr University and Kindle Farm School.

The first Sacred Seed Sanctuary was established in 1995 in Costa Rica at Finca Luna Nueva (New Moon Farm), an organic and biodynamic education center. There are now twelve other Sacred Seed Sanctuary foundation gardens. The administrative office is at the William L. Brown Center at Missouri Botanical Garden. Sacred Seeds program manager Ashley Glenn states that: “ Each culture, each family group, holds vital pieces of this global collection of solutions to survival. If we look at all of these pieces as a whole, we see a resilience that can withstand any threat, any pest, famine, or future outbreak. This collection of knowledge is priceless, and our future as a species directly depends on how we manage these useful plants and the knowledge about them.”

There are three things individuals can do to help Sacred Seeds Sanctuaries. 1) Donations can be made to this 501(c)3 non-profit. 2) Classes on Native American & Pioneer Healing and a Medicinal Plant Walking tour will be offered at Missouri Botanical Garden. 3) Plant a Sacred Seeds Sanctuary garden.

Here are Ashley Glenn’s suggestions: “ Explore your situation. Become a kind of detective of your history and place. Do you have family healing traditions or plant varieties? Try exploring this with the elders of your family, and see what legacies you can carry on for future generations. Also, do a little research on threatened plants in your ecosystem. There are many great resources online for identifying and acquiring threatened or endangered plant species, including plants.usda.gov. If you’d like to explore the Native American legacy of traditional plant use, try Dr. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany Online Database.

Once you’ve decided on the scope of your garden, decide on the impact you want your garden to have. Your garden has the capacity not only to beautify your home, but to share a legacy with your friends, family, neighbors, and other members of your community. Can your children’s friends and classmates take part in learning and digging? Can you share seeds and knowledge with your neighbors? Every Sacred Seeds Sanctuary has the capacity to grow beyond its physical boundaries, and become a local beacon for protecting our precious relationship with plants.

Now get to growing! Lay the garden out with your goals in mind. Is it a classroom? A food pantry? A “wild” plot of land? Enlist the help and advice of your local experts and willing community members, and enjoy this important project. Document your steps through stories and photos, and the next person who tries this can learn from your innovation.

And next, please share with us! We are constantly inspired by our Sacred Seeds partners around the world, and we want to learn and grow with you. As a Sacred Seeds Sanctuary, you are part of a growing community of people who see the vital importance of saving our amazing plant heritage.”

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a mandala artist and garden designer who uses the wisdom of many traditions in her work. Visit her website: www.gardensforthesoul.com or (314) 504-4266.

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