Episode 142:
At-Risk Plants with Susan Leopold

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At-risk plants with Susan Leopold

Episode Summary

I am a huge fan of the work done through United Plant Savers (UPS) and so it was truly an honor to have Susan Leopold, the executive director of UPS, on the show!

I had so much fun talking with Susan. Of course she discussed the UPS’s efforts to catalog and protect at-risk native medicinal plants, but this conversation also went places I didn’t expect,  including some of the history of herbal medicine in the United States and a sneak peek at next year’s International Herb Symposium.

Susan also talked about some of the many free resources United Plant Savers has to offer, like their list of at-risk plants and herbs that you can use to substitute for these plants medicinally, which we’ve linked to in the resource section below. 

And if you’re interested in helping UPS’s efforts in medicinal plant conservation, I highly recommend getting a membership! I’ve been a member for so many years, and I think everybody who loves plants should be a member of United Plant Savers if at all possible. You can find a link to become a member below.

By the end of this episode, you’ll know:

► Who the Eclectics were and why they are so relevant to herbalism and plant conservation today

► How United Plant Savers compiles its lists of at-risk plants, and how you can use these lists to guide your use and purchase of medicinal herbs

► Why United Plant Savers encourages people to engage and interact with plants rather than taking a hands-off approach

► Why buying wild-harvested white sage is so problematic (and what you can do to help!)

► Why Susan considers Echinacea to be “the voice of the prairie”

► Four ways you can directly help with conservation of at-risk medicinal plants

► and so much more…

For those of you who don’t already know her, Susan Leopold is an ethnobotanist and conservation ecologist known for her work in the fields of plant conservation, sustainable agriculture, and ethnobotany. She is the Executive Director of the United Plant Savers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native medicinal plants and fungi and their habitat. Leopold is an advocate for ethical wildcrafting practices, community-based conservation initiatives, and the preservation of traditional plant knowledge.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you today.

Would you prefer reading this episode? If so, click here to download a transcript.

Would you prefer watching this episode? If so, scroll down below.

Connect With Susan

  • Website | UnitedPlantSavers.org
  • Instagram | @unitedplantsavers
  • Facebook | @unitedplantsavers
  • Are you interested in becoming a member of United Plant Savers? Membership fees help support the organization’s efforts to research and conserve at-risk medicinal plants and fungi, and to put on events and workshops to help educate the public about their work. Members enjoy a number of perks, including a printed copy of United Plant Savers’ annual Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation, free admission to numerous botanical gardens and arboreta throughout North America and the Caribbean, and so much more. Become a member here!
  • Are you curious about whether there are locations in the United Plant Savers’ Botanical Sanctuary Network (BSN) near you, or are you interested in joining the network? You can find the map of locations and an application to join the BSN here.

What You'll Learn from This Episode

  • 01:09] Introduction to Susan Leopold, PhD
  • [02:29] What led Susan to United Plant Savers
  • [06:54] Cataloging Mrs. Mellon’s rare books
  • [09:22] Why the Eclectics deserve more recognition
  • [11:33] Who were the Eclectics?
  • [16:21] How United Plant Savers got started
  • [17:51] How do you determine whether a plant is at risk?
  • [20:48] The spirit behind the UPS list of at-risk plants and how you can use it as a consumer
  • [30:58] Benefits of UPS membership
  • [35:39] International Herb Symposium 2025
  • [38:23] White sage (Salvia apiana)
  • [42:41] Echinacea restoration
  • [48:14] How herbs instill hope in Susan
  • [53:55] Herbal Tidbit

Your Download

United plants Savers handout

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  • 01:12 - Introduction to Susan Leopold, PhD
  • 02:32 - What led Susan to United Plant Savers
  • 07:33 - Cataloging Mrs. Mellon’s rare books
  • 10:23 - Why the Eclectics deserve more recognition
  • 12:44 - Who were the Eclectics?
  • 18:04 - How United Plant Savers got started
  • 19:41 - How do you determine whether a plant is at risk?
  • 22:56 - The spirit behind the UPS list of at-risk plants and how you can use it as a consumer
  • 34:20 - Benefits of UPS membership
  • 39:43 - International Herb Symposium 2025
  • 42:43 - White sage (Salvia apiana)
  • 47:31 - Echinacea restoration
  • 54:05 - How herbs instill hope in Susan
  • 1:00:05 - Herbal Tidbit

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Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  


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