Conflicts & War

Ukraine’s botanical gardens fighting to save tropical plants amid blackouts

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv, Ukraine, Dec 20 (EFE).- Ukraine’s parks and botanical gardens are working hard to save their valuable collections of tropical plants that are threatened by the low winter temperatures amid the emergency power blackouts throughout the country due to the war with Russia.

The humid and warm air that welcomes visitors to the Stryiskyi Park’s greenhouse – one of the largest and oldest in the western city of Lviv – contrasts with the cold and the snow that covers the ground outside.

“The temperature cannot go below 18.5 C (65 F) or the plants will not survive,” park director Olena Mazuryik told EFE as she showed how the facility’s personnel are taking care of the palm, citrus and banana trees.

She added that they have a system that guarantees a constant temperature despite the frequent interruptions in electricity supply in the city due to Russian attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure.

Two generators are activated when there is a blackout to keep the humidification and heating system supplied with power.

Normally, a lake near the greenhouse complex is also heated to prevent it from freezing over in the winter, but this year the swans that live there have been transferred to a special refuge until spring.

Mazuryk said that the Russian invasion has made it impossible for the city, which owns the park, to invest in projects to further develop the facilities, since it must prioritize other needs, although for many residents, who have seen their recreational options severely reduced, the green zone continues to provide a respite amid the war.

The situation at the Hryshko National Botanical Garden in Kyiv is even more dramatic.

Its greenhouse holds a huge collection of tropical plants created over the past 50 years and, after last week the temperature inside fell to just 11 C (52 F), many of them began to show signs of disease.

The war has forced the garden to remain closed for a lengthy period, a situation that has resulted in the loss of a large portion of the institution’s income.

State financing barely covers the salaries of the workers there, while the price of fuel needed by the heating system has almost doubled. Also, the park lacks a generator that can keep the heating system functioning during the frequent blackouts in the capital.

To deal with the problem, garden personnel have installed improvised stoves at various points within the greenhouse where they can light fires if the situation worsens, but that is clearly not a permanent solution.

In a procedure that’s typical in Ukraine, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched and a series of volunteers are working to collect funds to pay for the purchase of fuel and generators.

Yulia Kovalenko, a photographer and activist, so far has managed to collect 200,000 hryvnia (about 5,000 euros or $5,305), about two-thirds of the funds needed to buy a powerful enough generator.

On the other hand, the Peli Can Live environmental protection NGO has collected two million hryvnia (51,0000 euros or $54,111), while the park itself has managed to buy more than 110 tons of solid fuel needed to heat the greenhouse through the sale of tickets to Ukrainians living around the world.

The botanical garden’s personnel have also organized, with the help of volunteers, a charity market at which visitors can visit the greenhouse and buy New Year’s decorations and floral artworks.

This collective effort, as activist Kovalenko wrote on her Facebook page, shows that – even during a war – “each little plant is important.”

EFE ra/bp

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