Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst Place

One of my focus areas at Hidcote is propagation and this week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in West Sussex to take part in a National Trust Seed Collecting Training Session. Launched in 2000, the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is the largest ex situ plant conservation programme in the world, conserving seeds from plants which are either facing extinction or which are of particular value to communities around the world. Recently the Millennium Seed Bank has begun working with the National Trust to conserve some of the many rare or unusual plants in National Trust Gardens.

The Millennium Seed Bank

The Millennium Seed Bank

As part of the training day we learnt how to check for the ripeness of seed in fruits and nuts by cutting these in half with secateurs or a sharp knife, and for smaller seeds by shaking the seed heads into a tray or tub.

DSC09028 DSC09033 DSC09035 DSC09038

 

We also learnt how to produce herbarium specimens by sandwiching plant material between sheets of newspaper and cardboard in a plant press. Herbarium specimens are sent to the Millennium Seed Bank alongside collected seeds as a plant identification reference point. Good herbarium specimens should contain a plant cutting which shows the stem, leaves (both sides) and any flowers or fruit if present. Flowers can also be cut in half to show the reproductive flowers and added to the specimen.

Plant material taken for an herbarium sample should be bent into shape rather than cut if it is too big for the press.

Plant material taken for an herbarium sample should be bent into shape rather than cut if it is too big for the press.

 

The straps will need tightening as the plant material dries. An herbarium sample should be ready after 2-3 weeks in the press.

The straps will need tightening as the plant material dries. An herbarium sample should be ready after 2-3 weeks in the press.

Inside the seed bank we learnt about how the seeds are processed and stored once they arrive and the data that is required from National Trust gardens in order to record them accurately. Ripe seeds are air-dried to 15% relative humidity in specialised drying rooms, before they are packaged into airtight containers and transferred to a cold room for storage at -20°C.

One of the labs inside the seed bank

One of the labs inside the seed bank

After the training I took the opportunity to have a look at the beautiful gardens of Wakehurst Place. Wakehurst is the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and is leased to them by the National Trust. Famed for its beautiful botanical gardens and extensive tree collections, the garden certainly didn’t disappoint me – just take a look at these pictures…

DSC09050 DSC09074 DSC09076 DSC09083 DSC09086 DSC09087 DSC09090 DSC09091 DSC09102 DSC09107 DSC09112 DSC09118 DSC09125 DSC09126 DSC09130 DSC09135 DSC09138

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: