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How A Girl's Life Was Saved By A Chicago Botanic Garden Plant

By Marielle Shaw in News on Nov 13, 2015 9:11PM

Photo credit: Eric Hunt

It’s safe to say that the Chicago Botanic Garden fields quite a few plant and gardening questions every day. The garden, located in Glencoe, is home to an amazing 2.6 million living species of plants, from chyrsanthemums to corpse flowers.

Recently, though, staff at the gardens got a more urgent request. On the Chicago Botanic Garden’s blog, employee Boyce Tankersley recounts the tale of a very sick young girl in a Denver hospital who desperately needed help controlling a life-threatening allergic reaction. She had been flown in from Japan to National Jewish Health in Denver and doctors were attempting to figure out what was causing her symptoms.

When hospital officials zeroed in on an ornamental cypress called Thujopsis dolabrata as the culprit, they knew they’d need help obtaining samples to find the specific variety causing the problem. They began the search with help from the Denver Botanic Gardens, but they were unable to provide the samples necessary.

With only 24 hours to determine if the plant was causing this, things were getting grim. Thankfully, a savvy employee at the Denver Botanic Gardens used some tech to save the day. She accessed the Chicago Botanic Garden’s smartphone app, GardenGuide, and found that they had the plant. Just a phone call and a few hours later, samples of the plant were sent to Denver, and the girl was able to be stabilized and returned to Japan safely.

The garden is beautiful, but it is also an amazing center for plant research and a huge resource to our community and beyond. To avert any such potential crisis in your own home this holiday season, when plant gifts are plentiful, take a look at these guides to identify plants that are toxic to pets, and those that are toxic to humans, when purchasing or gifting flora this year.