We assessed the genetic diversity consequences of applying ecological reserve design guidelines to four federally-listed globally-rare plant species. Consequences were measured using two metrics: proportion of all alleles and of common alleles included in reserves. Common alleles were defined as those alleles having a frequency of $≥$ 0.05 in at least one population. Four conservation professionals applied ecological reserve guidelines to choose specific populations of each species for inclusion in reserves of size 1 to N - 1, where N is the total number of populations of each species. Information regarding genetic diversity was not used in selecting populations. The resulting reserve designs were compared to random designs, and the agreement among experts was assessed using Kendall’s coefficient of concordance. Application of ecological reserve design guidelines proved mostly ineffective in capturing more genetic diversity than is captured selecting populations randomly. Meeting established targets for genetic diversity, such as one advocated by the Center for Plant Conservation, required larger numbers of populations than are suggested to be sufficient. Relative performance of expert designs differed among species and was dependent on whether the proportion of all alleles or of common alleles was used as a measure of diversity. Furthermore there was no significant concordance among experts in order in which populations were incorporated into reserves as experts differed in priority they placed on individual guidelines.