Seed Research

The Need for Seed

The conservation of rare species often requires the maintenance of an ex situ, or off-site, collection in addition to monitoring plants in their natural habitats. Fairchild's ex situ collection comprises both live plants and seeds, which provide insurance against species extinction, plants for reintroduction or augmentation, and material to study the biology of rare species. Long-term storage of seed allows a collection to increase over time, putting less pressure on wild populations while building a genetically diverse seed bank.

Fairchild's seed research focuses on determining the seed storage behavior of rare south Florida species. Traditional or "orthodox" methods of seed storage involve drying and freezing seeds, which increases the length of time seeds remain viable. Orthodox methods can be used to store seeds of most temperate plants, adapted to withstand cold winters. Since seed storage behavior of subtropical species is difficult to predict, experimental testing can help determine optimal seed storage requirements for these species. If seeds are determined to be orthodox, they are sent to the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation where they are placed in long-term storage. Fairchild also maintains a collection of seeds for research purposes. This document, Seed Storage Behavior of South Florida Native Plants, summarizes the results of several germination trials.

Links and Other Resources

Botanical gardens around the globe play an important role in conserving seeds and conducting seed research. The Berry Botanic Garden maintains a seed bank for rare and endangered plants of the Pacific Northwest. Seed storage characteristics of approximately 250 species native to Hawaii can be found on the website of the Hawaii Conservation Alliance as well as an online manual for seed storage practices of native Hawaiian plants. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England manages the Millennium Seed Bank Project, which aims to safeguard 24,000 species from extinction. They also host a searchable Seed Information Database.


Funding Sources

FL. Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Institute of Library and Museum Services
Miami-Dade County
The Institute for Regional Conservation
US Fish and Wildlife Service
US National Park Service