Save the Moonflowers


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Margaret Mee (1909-1988) was a botanical artist who often traveled up the Amazon River alone in search of rare flowers to collect and paint. Even at the age of 79, she planned to return to the Amazon for another excursion. On Thanksgiving Day in 1988, Ms. Mee was interviewed on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour; she fascinated the television audience with her accounts of her travels. Tragically, she was killed in an auto accident less than a week later. Even after her death, however, she is still having a profound impact on the preservation of rare flowers in the rainforests. In this lesson, you will learn how Mee's activities are helping markets save the rare moonflower.

(image courtesy of Margaret Mee's Amazon by Antique Collector's Club)


In this lesson you will describe how markets can be used to preserve rare flora and fauna. Also, given a resource, identify its alternative uses.


 Activity 1

Go to the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation for a complete transcript of Margaret Mee's final interview.

Answer these questions based upon the interview above:

  1. Ms. Mee is best known for her paintings. Besides creating beautiful images for people to enjoy, what purpose did her activity serve?
  2. What was the urgency behind her work?
  3. According to Mee, what percent of the Atlantic Forest remains today?
  4. Describe some of the rare flowers that attracted Mee to the rainforest.
  5. What flower did Mee seek in the spring before her death?
  6. What was special about that flower?
  7. What did she fear more than poisonous insects and snakes? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  8. What did Mee expect to see on her next visit?

 Activity 2

View satellite images of deforestation around Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

flowerMake general observations about the satellite images of the region for 1984 and 1998. The forests are indicated by green regions; deforested areas are indicated by reddish-brown areas. (Note: It is not necessary to click on the links to the other image files or the Quicktime movie. They take a long time to download.)

  1. What activities are leading to deforestation in the depicted region?
  2. Why do you suppose this land is being changed from its natural condition in favor of alternative uses?
  3. Make a list of ten possible uses (products) of this land. HINT: Scroll down to review the "Economy" section to see the products exported from Bolivia.
  4. How many of these ten products pass through markets (i.e. can be purchased)?
  5. Many products from the environment (such as pure air, rare plants, scenic vistas) are provided directly to people and do not pass through markets. Do you think the Bolivian government would support regulation to control deforestation? Why or why not? 

 Activity 3

Use the Amazon Boat Trip article to complete this Activity.

  1. What is being marketed at this site?
  2. If the organization selling trips could purchase the land where these tours are conducted, do you think it would be more or less likely to preserve the rare flora on that land?
  3. How was Margaret Mee helping to preserve the rare moonflower?
  4. How are markets helping to preserve the rare moonflower?

 Activity 4

  1. What do you know about endangered plants and animals? Is there one that particularly interests you? Create a travel brochure for a tour of the habitat that sustains that plant or animal.
  2. Can you think of any situation in which tourists cannot help preserve an area by paying to visit it? How can the area be preserved?


This lesson outlined the concepts of markets and natural resources while discussing the experiences of Margaret Mee. Rare flowers, such as the moonflower, have benefited from the activities provided by markets which are helping preserve  their existence.