In late November 2022, Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) staff collected 39 seeds of the threatened and endangered Florida Yew (Taxus floridana). This collection trip was led by Florida-based team members: Ashlynn Smith, Gulf Coast Coordinator and Cami Adams, Field Technician. Collected seeds have contributed to fruit quality data and seed moisture content data to the limited existing knowledge base for this species. The berries ranged from red to yellow/brown in color and most were fleshy. A range in total water content of 17-27% was observed for seeds originally from red and fleshy quality fruits. Also, germination experiments are being conducted by ABG’s Conservation Seed Bank. 35 of the collected seeds for this trial were lightly scarified (“nicked”), sown with gibberellic acid, and have undergone temperature stratification to break the seeds’ morphophysiological dormancy as seen with closely related species. To date, no seeds have germinated. This germination trial will conclude around September 2023.
Newly hired Dr. Qiansheng Li, In Vitro Research Scientist, has established a species-specific in vitro inoculation protocol for Taxus floridana. Explants for this work were collected on April 27, 2023 from the individual tree with accession number ABG#20111106, originally collected from Torreya State Park, Calhoun County, Florida. In 2011, this individual was collected as cuttings and planted at ABG’s conservation garden in 2014. Fifteen current growth shoots were collected, washed, and cut into segments 2-3 cm long. About 40 shoot segments were surface disinfected and inoculated in a test tube with initiation media. Thirteen of them were not contaminated and axillary buds emerged three weeks after inoculation.
Next steps include: 1) transferring these aseptic buds for multiplication and rooting experiments, 2) collecting additional cuttings in November 2023 from Torreya State Park and 3) initiating new cuttings in vitro from established material collected in November 2022.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden was fortunate to be awarded the one exceptional species project for Florida Yew, Taxus floridana, under this round of funding for the Florida Plant Rescue seed banking initiative. Just before Thanksgiving, seeds were collected to test their desiccation tolerance, the ability to withstand drying to a moisture content of 4-7%. Since this species usually yields few seeds and they are likely to be exceptional or unable to withstand desiccation and prolonged storage at -20C, cuttings were also collected to establish ex situ propagation protocols. ABG has worked extensively to conserve the close relative Torreya taxifolia, including establishment of a successful propagation protocol from cuttings. The next step will be to apply this protocol to T. floridana. Testing T. floridana’s seed desiccation tolerance and propagation are important. Based on the results of these tests, next steps may include the exploration of other ex situ safeguarding methods like cryopreservation.
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