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A Matter of Latitude: Bart O’Brien

Articles: A Matter of Latitude: Bart O’Brien

Bart O'Brien botanizing on Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Photo: Sula Vanderplank

A fitful breeze wafted across Southern California last December. It was a collective sigh of dismay when Bart O’Brien left his post as Director of Special Projects at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) for his native Northern California and a new position as Director of Regional Parks Botanic Garden (formerly known as the Tilden Botanic Garden). You don’t often hear the term “icon” in the horticultural world (outside of references to big trees), but it crops up again and again regarding Bart.

That achievement is entwined with the rise of California’s native plants in the realm of horticulture. Ever since Theodore Payne and other likeminded plantsmen began championing the unique flora of the region and bringing it into cultivation, devotees have challenged traditional landscape aesthetics that were transplanted from back East as the West was settled. Relentless native plant advocates and dwindling water resources are changing conventional wisdom, and Bart is one of the key players in that transformation.

After earning degr...

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