Saving the Seeds of the Future
The Botanical Conservation Center was an ambitious new initiative to help save plant species of conservation concern. Located in an off-exhibit area of the Wild Animal Park in a solar-powered, saw-bale building (above), the center’s purpose was to establish a certified seed bank to preserve seeds from endangered or threatened plants, create a native plant inventory of species found in the areas surrounding the Wild Animal Park, and to help develop strategies for dealing with invasive plant species that outcompete native species. Similar to the Frozen Zoo for animals, the seed bank stores frozen germ plasm in seeds, creating a safety net for endangered plants. Seeds are collected, cleaned, and dried, then tested for germination viability (far left). They can then be frozen for up to 200 years and still be able to germinate if needed. The seeds for each sample collection must also be counted (left)—requiring meticulous concentration! The Botanical Conservation Center has continued to work with state and federal agencies to help with key local conservation issues, and also works with Kew Royal Botanic Gardens on the Millennium Seed Bank Project, a program to help preserve the flora of the world. Once a year, the center’s researchers ship seeds, dried samples, and detailed collection information to Kew to be part of this world bank.