Go-To Seeds

Across Aus­tralia, sci­en­tists at seed banks are qui­etly work­ing to pro­tect our pre­cious na­tive plants, writes Sarah Pick­ette.

Australian House & Garden - - Contents -

Pro­tect­ing the diver­sity of Aus­tralian na­tive flora.

Aus­tralia’s di­verse na­tive flora of­fer up all man­ner of weird and won­der­ful seeds, tucked into gnarled banksia pods or at the cen­tre of fleshy rain­for­est fruits, trans­ported by an­i­mal or air, ger­mi­nat­ing af­ter rains or fire. “We have so many rare and dis­tinc­tive plants in Aus­tralia that aren’t found any­where else in the world, and I think we have a duty to col­lect their seeds so we can un­der­stand and pro­tect them,” says Ly­dia Guja, seed con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Botanic Gar­dens’ Na­tional Seed Bank in Canberra. “Our na­tive plants play some very im­por­tant roles in their ecosys­tem; some pro­vide food specif­i­cally for cer­tain na­tive an­i­mals while some are home to in­sects and other crea­tures, and oth­ers may have medic­i­nal uses that we don’t yet un­der­stand.”

The Na­tional Seed Bank is a mem­ber of the Aus­tralian Seed Bank Part­ner­ship, which com­prises 12 con­ser­va­tion-fo­cused or­gan­i­sa­tions that are all work­ing to­wards the one goal: to col­lect, cat­a­logue, con­duct re­search on and pro­tect Aus­tralia’s na­tive flora.

‘WE WERE ASKED ABOUT A PLANT THAT HAD BE­COME EX­TINCT IN THE WILD… WE WERE ABLE TO SEND SEED AND RE­VERSE THAT SIT­U­A­TION .’ L YD IAGUJA, NA­TIONAL SEED BANK

“At the Na­tional Seed Bank, we’ve done a lot of work on alpine sphag­num moss, which are tiny plants with some in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics – for ex­am­ple, we know they pro­vide the only habi­tat in which the en­dan­gered south­ern cor­ro­boree frog will breed,” says Guja.

As our cli­mate changes and more alpine fires oc­cur, these plants may strug­gle to sur­vive, she says. Stud­ies in Europe show that alpine seeds are rel­a­tively short-lived when frozen for con­ser­va­tion, com­pared to seeds from eu­ca­lypts or banksias, which Guja an­tic­i­pates may be able to sur­vive be­ing frozen for thou­sands of years. “We sus­pect that alpine seeds, even with high-tech han­dling and preser­va­tion, might only last decades, and this is im­por­tant to know from a con­ser­va­tion point of view.”

While the goals of all of Aus­tralia’s seed banks are, by their very na­ture, for­ward-look­ing, ‘with­drawals’ are be­ing made even to­day. “We of­ten get re­quests from other re­searchers for seeds and from var­i­ous botanic gar­dens look­ing to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing pub­lic dis­plays,” says Guja. “Re­cently we were asked about a plant that had be­come ex­tinct in the wild in WA. We were able to send over seed and help re­verse that sit­u­a­tion.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.