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FAQ: Australian plants and seed collections

Answers to frequently asked questions about Australian plants and our collections.

How many plant species in the world, Australia and in New South Wales?

  • There are around 300, 000 plant species in the world and 8-10% of these occur in Australia.
  • Scientists estimate that there are 25,000 to 30,000 species in Australia.
  • The current number of recorded species in NSW is 5929 (June 2019).
  • Estimates suggest that 85 per cent of Australia's flora is found nowhere else on the planet!

What proportion of Australian species are threatened with extinction?

Globally, around 10 per cent of all plant species, and an astounding 30 per cent of gymnosperms are threatened with extinction. Continued pressure on the landscape for human use has altered the native vegetation, and there are now more than 600 threatened plant species and 81 ecological communities listed as threatened under NSW state legislation.

Where and how are the seeds stored?

Seeds are stored under various conditions in our PlantBank vault:

After drying to below 10 per cent moisture content, seeds are vacuum sealed in aluminium foil packets and housed in walk-in cold rooms. These cold rooms have thick insulation panels surrounded by a concrete shell to thermally insulate and protect the whole collection.

How long can seed last?

It depends! Species have their own natural life spans.  The process of drying and freezing can extend their life from a few years to tens or even hundreds of years - our scientists estimate seed life spans using a 'rapid ageing' experiment. Seed of some species cannot be stored and their seeds are only good for immediate planting.

How big is PlantBank and our seed vault?

  • PlantBank floor space is about 3000 m², the area of 2.5 Olympic swimming pools!
  • Our Seed Vault has been built in stages so we only cool those sections required. On opening the Seed Vault had 76 m3 of storage, expandable to 190 m3 as the seed collection grows.
Our partners at the Millennium Seed Bank (UK) answer their most frequently asked questions.