Care for the Rare

Care for the Rare provides free, easy-to-use interpretation resources that any garden can use to clearly communicate conservation stories of threatened plants in their collections.

Interpretation for Conservation

Care for the Rare provides plug-and-play interpretation resources that are versatile, scalable, and customisable. Use signs that have already been created and shared by other gardens, or easily create your own signs!

In support of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Target 14, Care for the Rare aims to provide signage resources to encourage public gardens of all shapes and sizes to interpret plant conservation topics and threatened species to their visitors.

Care for the Rare is a partnership between Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S. and the United States Botanic Garden, with additional support from the Wallace Genetic Foundation.

Care for the Rare Resources

  • Care for the Rare

    Services for Botanic Gardens / Publication, Tool / English

Sign Library

Care for the Rare has been designed as a flexible, growing resource for public gardens to use to highlight threatened species and conservation issues.

Please keep us in the loop! If your garden develops signs using these templates please contact us. We can assist with the process, and would be thrilled to receive your finished signs for addition to the Sign Library.

Introductory signs introduce the Care for the Rare project and can also be customized to include your institution’s logo and other conservation information to fit your purposes. These signs can be printed on 11×17 paper.

The Care for the Rare logo is available to use anywhere to highlight the importance of plants and the need for their conservation.

All signs pre-made species signs have been developed by Care for the Rare collaborators, and have been reviewed for content and design. The signs are printable on 8.5×11 paper. Refer to our sign creation instructions for help on how to insert your garden’s logo or customize the content. *Tip: save customized sign files as PDF’s for best results when printing.

Create Your Own Signs

Read our detailed instructions to make your own interpretive signs using our Care for the Rare templates. We hope you will find this resource useful for developing interpretive signs about species in need of conservation. Downloadable templates have been created in Microsoft Word to allow you to create and customize signs for your garden.

Tips for Creating Species Signs

You may want to highlight species that tell unique and valuable stories! Here are some possible themes, which BGCI can help with:

  • Threatened native species
  • Threatened species known only from your garden’s collection
  • Threatened (native) species found in lots of collections
  • Species extinct in the wild (how public gardens can be an insurance policy against extinction)
  • Species that demonstrate geographic relationships – local to global
  • Recalcitrant species (value of seed banks and living collections)
  • CITES species (threats/trade restrictions of economically important species)
  • Threatened species that is a Crop Wild Relative
  • Species not currently threatened (predicted threatened, native, etc.)
  • Additional themes: medicinal value, orchids, alpine species, etc.

Unsure which species to choose?

BGCI can help you prioritize a list of threatened plants in your collection! You can access valuable conservation information about your garden’s collection via the GardenSearch database. GardenSearch cross-references your garden’s plant list with major threatened species lists, and tells you which plants in your collection are threatened in the wild, native to your region, and how many other gardens grow the same species. See our Interpretation Development Guidelines for detailed instructions on how to use the Garden Search Database to select species for signage.

Other Considerations

  • Determine a realistic number of species to highlight; perhaps start with 5 species and increase the number through time.
  • Consider making an annual exhibit for Plant Conservation Day (May 18), or National Public Gardens Day in the U.S.
  • Species that may be in bloom during this exhibition: although not necessary, it may add impact.
  • Location of specimens for exhibit (if in one area or if distributed throughout your collection).
  • Integrate with broader interpretation efforts or themes at your institution.
  • Choose a realistic time frame: are there other exhibits or major events planned before or after this?
  • Sign logistics: Preferences for how to edit, print, post, maintain, or monitor the signs and any corresponding exhibit/tour? Consider creating a handout, map, cell phone, or similar guide to provide continuity for the exhibit; and integrate with online media if possible.


We are grateful to all the individuals who provided valuable input via our 2012 Interpretation for Conservation Survey (see summary results here) as well as follow-up surveys, sign critiques, pilot phase testing, and Sign Reviewers. The following institutions have provided input into the creation of Care for the Rare materials, or have created signs to be shared in our Sign Library:

  • Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden
  • Desert Botanical Garden
  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
  • State Botanical Garden of Kentucky
  • United States Botanic Garden