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Seeds of many Australian species are expected to be long-lived in storage, with groups such as acacias, eucalypts, and casuarinas topping the list. The long lifespan expected for many Australian species is illustrated in NSW by a small batch of Acacia pycnantha seed originating from Australia’s first Arbor Day in 1890, where 80% of seed germinated in 1990 after 100 years of unsealed home storage.
Until recently, the longevity of seeds of many Australian species was unknown. Investigations of seed life span are a critical activity of scientists at the Australian PlantBank, in collaboration with scientists from the Australian Seed Bank Partnership using a ‘rapid ageing’ technique. These experiments aim to rank seed of different species from shortest to longest lived in a global context, to produce a ‘snapshot’ of seed life span in storage (Martyn, 2009).
Understanding seed longevity is useful for prioritising which species must be cleaned and stored first - a key task at the end of a busy collection season. The ranking will determine which species’ seeds are likely to survive for long periods in storage, help us set appropriate re-testing schedules for seeds in the PlantBank vault and work out which species will need to be regenerated or replenished regularly with fresh seed.
Further reading on seed longevity