Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is bringing together native plant advocates, indigenous peoples, film producers and the community for a screening of three short films and a discussion about historic stewardship and current issues facing native plants.
“People and the Planet: The Healing Power of Native Plants” will begin at 7 p.m. July 21 at the Marjorie Luke Theatre (in Santa Barbara Junior High School, 721 E. Cota St.). Tickets are $25 general admission and $10 for youth (aged 3 to 12) and students with ID.
Tickets can be purchased in advance on the garden’s website, sbbotanicgarden.org, and at the door. Admission includes one free native plant per person.
“The garden sits at the intersection of plants and people, and we are always looking for ways to inspire people to engage with the natural world,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, garden executive director. “These three films celebrate the long relationship between plants and people, but also highlight what transpires when this relationship is not healthy.”
The three short films include “Plant Heist” (2021) about the plant poachers who are willing to risk their lives to steal protected native succulents called “liveforevers,” a species of Dudleya found along coastal cliffs of California, prized by collectors and sold internationally for top dollar as trendy houseplants.
The 17-minute film, which includes interviews with game wardens, district attorneys, eyewitnesses, plant biologists and volunteer groups, is produced by Sibling Rivalry Creative: Chelsi de Cuba and Gabriel de Cuba.
The producers, who are unable to attend, have recorded a brief video introducing the film and addressing the issues it raises, including the passage of California AB 223, which provides the species new protections and establishes strong penalties for violations.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden conducts ongoing study of Dudleya and is considered a taxonomic expert. Ten of California’s 26 Dudleya are now classified as threatened or endangered under the Federal and/or California Endangered Species Act.
“The Chumash People: A Living History” (2022), which includes the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, explores the living history, traditions, talents and food of its people. It presents a context of how Chumash culture has been influenced by the natural world, how culture influences natural resources and the ways those traditions continue today.
The 11-minute film is produced by Cage Free Productions with Paul J. Lynch.
“Saging the World” (2022), a documentary film, explores the impact of the growing popularity of “saging”— burning white sage bundles as a cleansing ritual. White sage (Salvia apiana) is found only in Southern California and northern Baja California.
Poaching to meet international demand is endangering this plant used by indigenous communities for thousands of generations. The film spotlights the ecological and cultural issues intertwined with white sage and encourages viewers to enjoy it but grow it for themselves. The 20-minute film is produced by Rose Ramirez, Deborah Small and the California Native Plant Society.
The screenings are followed by a discussion moderated by Scot Pipkin, the garden’s director of education.
“We bring together various voices to discuss how people interact with plants and the challenges around that synergy, both historically and in today’s world,” he said. “We also explore why native plants are important to a healthy ecosystem, what it means to be in partnership with plants, and how we can work together, as a community, to realize a future for the health and wellbeing of people and the planet.”
Participants confirmed to date include Deborah Small, “Saging the World” filmmaker, co-author of “Ethnobotany Project: Contemporary Uses of Native Plants” and white sage advocate; Diego Cordero, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; Alvaro Casanova, conservation advocate with the California Native Plant Society; Dr. Heather Schneider, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden rare plant biologist; and Colette Keller, San Marcos High School student.