Paul Mills – Curator of the Living Collections

Paul Mills, Curator of the Living Collections, has more than 30 years of experience working with and studying plants. In 1990 he started working at Abbey Garden Cactus and Succulent nursery in Carpinteria while earning his B.A. in biogeography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. During this time he had the opportunity to work in the field in Mexico with Charlie Glass of CANTE Botanical Garden and Ted Anderson of Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix. Funded by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), Paul and the team set up field monitoring sites for endangered cacti and also worked on capacity building of the staff at El Charco del Ingenio Botanic Garden. In 1995 Paul started his career at Lotusland being hired as a cactus and succulent specialist. In 1999 Paul took a year to study plant conservation at the prestigious Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, after which he travelled and continued his studies in Europe and South America. Upon returning to the United States, he spearhead the Dunlap cactus garden project, initially writing a proposal and then executing the project. When Lotusland’s Cactus Garden was completed, Paul returned as a full time staff member in a supervisory role and would become the assistant curator in 2006 and then curator in 2017.

Paul has served as president of the Santa Barbara Cactus and Succulent Society, was the recipient of the 2014 Bouquet of the Year award, the highest honor of the Santa Barbara Horticultural Society, and is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cycad Specialist Group. His extensive travels to study and observe plants in their native habitat has furthered his knowledge, expertise and understanding of the rare and exceptional plant collections he is charged with caring for at Lotusland. He has given numerous lectures and presentations on his many plant expeditions and the species he has observed and studied. Paul continues to represent Lotusland at many national and international conferences.

CPC Rare Plant Academy

Encephalartos heenanii: A Pollination Success Story
Ganna Walska Lotusland has many important plant collections, but none are more important from a conservation standpoint than the cycad collection. In the collection there are three mature individuals of Encephalartos heenanii which is now believed to be extinct in the wild. Ganna Walska Lotusland is working with the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cycad Specialist Group to develop an E. heenanii Assurance Colony (ex situ collection) as one of the two Assurance Colonies that are recommended – one in the country of nativity and one outside. E. heenanii is very reluctant to cone, even in South Africa, yet Lotusland produced seed for the first time ever in the United States in 2011 – we currently have 21 of these plants. A private collector in Southern California has banked pollen of E. heenanii for future pollination of Lotusland’s female plant. We hope to repatriate some of these seedlings to South Africa to aid in increasing genetic material for a future Assurance Colony there just as we are looking to acquire additional genetic material for our Assurance Colony. Genetic sequencing will be performed in the future. Our fledgling Conservation Fund will allow us to begin to work with colleagues in South Africa and to construct infrastructure for Lotusland’s Assurance Colony.

The Garden is Singing

Lotusland Documentary Film


“Cycads: The Most Threatened Plant Group on the Planet” 

Lotusland Newsletter article by Paul Mills – May 2021

The Plantsman – Royal Horticulture Society – “Ganna Walska Lotusland” 

Article by Paul Mills – March 2019

“Connecting People with Plants”

Lotusland Newsletter article by Paul Mills – Spring 2019

“Plant Conservation: A Lotusland Priority and Responsibility”

Lotusland Newsletter article by Paul Mills – Fall 2019

“Lotusland’s Nursery: Where the Future Happens”

Lotusland Newsletter article by Paul Mills – Spring 2017

“A Forest of Cactus: The Dunlap Collection”

Lotusland Newsletter article by Paul Mills – Summer 2017

A Safari of Plants: The 11th Conferenceon Cycad Biology

Lotusland Newsletter Article Winter 2019

Planting History

Lotusland Newsletter Article Spring 2019

International Conference Utowana Cienfuegos Botanic Garden, Cuba

Lotusland Newsletter Article Winter 2018

Keynote Lecture at the 2019 Nong Nooch Cycad Horticulture Workshop

Nong Nooch Tropical Botanic Garden in Chonburi Province, Thailand
The 2019 workshop and post conference tour were invaluable learning opportunities and served to build and coordinate future collaborations with international institutions working towards a common goal of protecting cycad species against future extinctions.

Lessons from Lotusland – The Dunlap Cactus Collection and How it Came to Lotusland – ZOOM

Spanning 70 years, this impressive collection of columnar cacti contains about 400 different species with nearly 300 that were new to Lotusland at the time of its arrival. Join Curator of the Living Collections, Paul Mills, to hear about the history of the Dunlap Cactus Collection, the monumental task of moving it to Lotusland, and the construction of this iconic garden.

Watch ZOOM Presentation Here