This project has been placed in the “completed status” and is no longer active, but all the information is left for educational and historical reasons.
The “Little River Basin Master Gardeners” and the “El Camino Real Master Naturalists” welcome you to our joint project of contributing local seeds of Milam County to the “Millennium Seed Bank“.
What is the “Millennium Seed Bank”?
The Millennium Seed Bank Project is an international conservation project coordinated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, located just outside London. Launched in the year 2000 and housed in the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building situated in the grounds of Wakehurst Place, West Sussex, its purpose is to provide an “insurance policy” against the extinction of plants in the wild by storing seeds for future use. The storage facilities consist of large underground frozen vaults preserving the world’s largest collection of seeds.
Why Kew saves seeds
Today, between 60,000 and 100,000 species of plant are faced with the threat of extinction – roughly a quarter of all plant species.
Plants are dying out largely due to the activities of people. Clearing of primary vegetation, over-exploitation and climate change are all causing species losses.
We need plants, because plants are useful. Plants provide the air we breathe, they provide clean water, fuel, building materials, fibers, resins and we all rely on plants for food.
Plants also play a vital role in combating climate change. Plants maintain the atmosphere and counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, turning it into plant material. Kew’s projects are supporting plants in mitigating and adapting to our changing climate.
How does it work?
People like us become organized and trained by experts in plant identification, seed collection and preservation – especially the assistance of Flo Oxley and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – and we become the volunteers to help make it happen by locating unique plant species in our county, and collecting seeds for the “millennium”.
When the seeds arrive at Kew, they are cleaned, identification confirmed, dried, repackaged and stored in sub-zero conditions. Because seeds required for research get used up, and to check the viability and storage conditions, seeds are germinated on a periodic basis. Plants from stored seeds are also grown where viability in the wild has fallen to low levels, and the resultants seeds are distributed where needed. All seeds provided to institutions are on a non-profit mutual benefit basis.
What’s been done so far, and what lies ahead?
By the end of 2009, Kew, together with partners in 50 countries worldwide, will have successfully saved seeds from 10% of the world’s wild plant species. In total so far, over 1.6 Billion seeds for over 27,000 species have been saved, including 12 species that are now globally extinct in the world.
By 2020, the aim is to secure the safe storage of seed from 25% of the world’s plants. Targeted plants and regions are those most at risk from climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities. Seeds also targeted are those of the world’s plant life faced with the threat of extinction, and those that could be of most use in the future.
In 2009, we launched our Milam County MSB program. Seventeen volunteers were trained by Flo Oxley from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and we already have two documented plant species registered in the U.K. seed vaults for Central Texas for this world wide effort. That alone is an outstanding effort. Plus we are the very first Texas volunteer group that has been trained. And, per Flo Oxley, we are seen as the ones setting the standards!!
Another training session is targeted for March 2010, and anyone is eligible to participate!
So, take a look at the three species being targeted next, and see if you have any of these on your property.
Milam County’s Targeted Species
Current species targeted for seed collection include those shown below. Please view the PowerPoint presentations for additional photos and information.
Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia)
Blooms Feb-May. Five petals, white to cream white flower that is less than 1” long, shrub that grows up to 13’ tall with red or yellow 1” fruit that is found in sandy, open woods, roadsides and fence rows. Download the Chickasaw Plum Prunus PDF file
Mouse’s Ear (stachys crenata)
Blooms Feb-May. Delicate looking petal that has a ‘mick jagger lip’, light lavender to pink flower, sepals are less than 1” long that grows up to 12” tall and is found in ditches, damp woods, abandoned lots, pastures and weedy areas. Download the Mouse’s Ear Stachys crenata PDF file
The form for recording seed collection information is attached below.
Download Seeds of Success PDF file
Web Sites of Interest
A few web sites of interest for further research include the following: