A Big Win for Small Seeds!
Rare plant seeds are a precious resource that provide the basis for recovery of these plants in nature. Yet rare plant seed collections often contain too few seeds to be utilized for reintroductions without seed augmentation. “Seed bulking” is the process of growing plants from seed to reproduction in a botanic garden setting to increase seed available for restoration. While necessary, it can impose unnatural filters on the genetics of rare plant populations — and we know little about how growing a plant outside its native range affects plant health or genetic filtering.
The Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a three-year $589,833 National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to better understand the critical practice of seed bulking. The grant was submitted in collaboration with seven members of the California Plant Rescue network, including co-Principal Investigators Christa Horn (San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance) and Carrie Kiel and Naomi Fraga (California Botanic Garden). We will leverage the propagation expertise and infrastructure of partners throughout the California Plant Rescue network to seed bulk 15 rare annual California native plant species, including in-depth tracking of propagation techniques and maternal line survival over two growing seasons in two locations (inside and outside of their home range).
The project will also evaluate how seed bulking influences the genetics of two rare California annuals in the CPC National Collection: Saltmarsh Bird’s beak (Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimum) and San Diego thornmint (Acanthomintha ilicifolia). These insights, together with insights from our broader network, will be used to create CPC Best Practices Guidelines for Seed Bulking and improve the quality of curation for rare plants more broadly.