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14 Sep 2022

Inside the marvellous seedbank

Most people think about banks for storing money but the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan houses one of the most important banks of all.

That's because the seedbank, which is part of the Australian Institute of Botanical Science, focusses on banking seed of threatened plant species in New South Wales.

Dr Marlien van der Merwe, acting seedbank manager, says currently there is seed of more than 70 per cent of NSW threatened plant species in the bank.

"While the team is constantly focussing on banking more species the increase in threats, such as introduction of new pathogens and habitat destruction results in more species being threatened by extinction and thus listed as threatened," she says.

Grevillea shiressii
Seeds from the vulnerable species Grevillea shiressii. Picture: Katherine Thomson
Main image above: Endangered Gyrostemon thesioides or broom wheel-fruit

Seedbanking of threatened species is done in collaboration with the NSW Government's Saving our Species program and the Australian Seed Bank Partnership.

SoS aims to increase the number of threatened species that are secure in the wild in NSW for 100 years and control the key threats facing our threatened plants and animals.

The Australian Seed Bank Partnership is an alliance of 14 organisations, bringing together expertise from Australia’s leading botanic gardens, state environment agencies and NGOs to work on strategic solutions to deal with the multitude of threats facing our biodiversity.

Euphrasia bowdeniae
Seeds from the vulnerable Euphrasia bowdeniae. Picture: Katherine Thomson

3 million seeds! Wattle ya know? 

They might not be threatened but they're our national flower so it makes sense that the seedbank would house an impressive collection of the wattle.

Dr Hannah McPherson, Collections Manager at the National Herbarium of NSW, which is also part of the Institute, says the Herbarium has 45,283 acacia specimens representing more than 1000 species!

Meanwhile, Dr van der Merwe says the total estimated seeds of the genus at the seedbank is about 3 million. 

Find out more

The Australian Institute of Botanical Science consists of the physical and virtual scientific collections, research, services and facilities, and of course, staff at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah. The Institute is one of the nation’s premier botanical research organisations and helps to ensure the survival of plants and build more resilient ecosystems for future generations. Download the Australian Institute of Botanical Science prospectus for a detailed look at the vital science work we undertake.

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