Friday, December 12, 2008

Collection of Red List seeds

A partnership between the Botswana Department of Agriculture, the Botswana National Museum and the Millennium Seed Bank, part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK saw a significant seed collection event near Pom Pom Camp in western Okavango Delta in the first week of December.

Alison and Roger Heath of plantsandpeopleafrica, assisted by Ofentse Brian, a guide based at Pom Pom camp, have collected seed of Eulophia angolensis. This terrestrial orchid is on the Red List of very rare plants under threat in Botswana. The team found sufficient plants to allow the collection of specimens for identification purposes and the collection of seed.

The first photograph shows Roger and Ofentse collecting a voucher specimen. The second shows Alison and Ofentse putting the specimens into a drying press under the watchful eyes of a herd of elephants.
“There have been several abortive expeditions from Gaborone to find this seed, including one that almost caused the loss of a Landcruiser in a flooded river, so this collection is seen as an important mile-stone” says Alison.

The Millennium Seed Bank, with its local partners, forms a world-wide initiative to collect the seed of all types of plants for preservation in specially built freezers to ensure that global biodiversity of plant life is preserved. Should a species die out in the wild for any reason then repopulation can take place where a suitable environment is found. Samples of the stored seed are germinated on a periodic basis to judge how well the seed has been preserved. Any species which falls below set germination standards is recollected.

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