Bank­ing for the fu­ture

Go Gardening - - Editorial -

In the spring is­sue of Go Gar­den­ing, we talked about Myr­tle Rust, an in­va­sive fun­gus dis­ease that is threat­en­ing New Zealand’s Myr­taceae fam­ily of plants in­clud­ing rata, mānuka, kānuka and the iconic pōhutukawa.

Sev­eral agen­cies have re­acted to this po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease head on. The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries and the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DoC) have fast tracked a Myr­tle Rust Re­sponse Seed Col­lec­tion, work­ing with the New Zealand In­dige­nous Flora Seed­bank (NZIFS) led by Massey Uni­ver­sity. The project col­lects seeds from New Zealand flora to con­serve the coun­try’s bio­di­ver­sity and is part of the Mil­len­nium Seed Bank Part­ner­ship headed by the Royal Botanic Gar­dens, Kew in the UK.

Seed bank co­or­di­na­tor Mon­ica Swadel says they cur­rently hold seeds of 213 dif­fer­ent in­dige­nous plant species in­clud­ing the Myr­tle Rust Re­sponse col­lec­tion of Myr­taceae seeds.

“Myr­tle rust could se­ri­ously im­pact on New Zealand’s Myr­taceae species,” says Mon­ica. “In New Zealand there are other threat­en­ing dis­eases such as kauri dieback which has se­ri­ously af­fected some kauri pop­u­la­tions and re­quires care­ful mon­i­tor­ing and pub­lic aware­ness to avoid its spread.”

Like any bank, de­posits and with­drawals are made, although the lat­ter only when a species needs to be rein­tro­duced to pop­u­la­tions lost in the wild or for re­search projects that will help with con­ser­va­tion of a species. New Zealand has around 2600 taxa (species) of in­dige­nous plants, with 80 per­cent clas­si­fied as en­demic and 40 per­cent at risk or threat­ened.

Palmer­ston North lo­cal Vivi­enne McG­lynn works at the Myr­taceae seed bank. With a Masters de­gree in Plant Ecol­ogy, Vivi­enne pre­vi­ously worked for DoC as a pro­gramme man­ager in Bio­di­ver­sity be­fore “go­ing back to gar­den­ing” in 2010 as a self-em­ployed gar­dener.

“Be­cause of the Myr­tle Rust out­break, we are try­ing to bank as many pop­u­la­tions of Myr­taceae species as pos­si­ble,” she says. Seed is col­lected from around the coun­try and sent to the seed bank where an ex­haus­tive prepa­ra­tion and test­ing process takes place.

“In the lab the seed pack­ets are opened up un­der a fume hood to make sure any likely rust spores present can’t es­cape. It’s then a lengthy process of soak­ing and wash­ing be­fore they are dried and sieved. And that’s even be­fore we know if it’s even a good seed!”

The seeds are then weighed and counted; around 10,000 seeds for each col­lec­tion is ideal. “I’ve just weighed some Manuka seeds and it ac­tu­ally doesn’t take much to get that num­ber – some­times 10,000 seeds can be a cou­ple of tea­spoons. There is fur­ther test­ing to con­firm vi­a­bil­ity and once the seeds are com­pletely dry, they are put in sealed foil bags and stored in the freezer at -20OC,” she says.

Vivi­enne adds that seed bank­ing is pos­si­bly the only thing to do in the case of air­borne fun­gus dis­eases putting our flora at risk. “The seeds can be used to re­store pop­u­la­tions if there’s a so­lu­tion to the rust prob­lem and they also pro­vide sam­ples from a sci­en­tific point of view – look­ing at ge­net­ics between pop­u­la­tions.”

When she’s not col­lect­ing seeds, Vivi­enne is a very keen home gar­dener. “Half of my gar­den is or­na­men­tal and the other half is in vegetables. I have a se­cret gar­den ac­cessed through gates and that’s where you’ll find a beau­ti­ful na­tive Clema­tis drip­ping off the tree, Chatham Is­land for­get-me-nots and prim­roses all burst­ing out. There’s a lot of lus­cious colour, tex­ture and scent in the gar­den.”

When it comes to gar­den­ing for other peo­ple, Vivi­enne says her work is usu­ally a com­bi­na­tion of purely man­ual work - get­ting rid of con­volvu­lus and ivy - and im­ple­ment­ing whole new plant­ing schemes. “I think the best value in be­ing a gar­dener is en­abling older peo­ple to en­joy their gar­dens and tak­ing a load off their minds as well as their shoul­ders.”

Po­hutukawa (Met­rosideros ex­celsa)

ABOVE: Vivi­enne at home in her gar­den with Harry her dog and Chatham Is­land for­get-me-nots in the fore­ground.

BELOW: Climb­ing rata (Met­rosideros ful­gens) seeds ready for siev­ing, and sieved.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.