Revealing the Details of Hawaiian Seeds Through Microscope Photography

Tim Kroessig, Harold L. Lyon Arboretum

The Hawaiian flora represents ~45% of all plants listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened or endangered. The Lyon Arboretum’s Seed Conservation Laboratory (Lyon S.C.L.) conserves many of these imperiled plants through conventional seed banking. However, the seeds of many rare Hawaiian plants have never been formally described or photographed. Receiving fruit and seed collections from collectors across the Hawaiian Islands presents staff with a unique opportunity to document characteristics of these seeds through photography. Initially, we used a digital SLR camera to photograph incoming fruit and seed collections, but encountered challenges in accurately capturing the details of very small seeds. With limited knowledge of microscope photography and a modest budget, we decided to investigate a setup that could be utilized for seed photography. After some research into different brands and models, we decided on an Olympus SZ61 stereo microscope, with an LW Scientific Inc. MiniVid camera, and ToupTek’s ToupView version 3.7 software. Using this microscope-camera setup we have captured more than 500 images of Hawaiian seeds representing over 150 taxa, including many C.P.C. sponsored species. As new material comes into the Lyon S.C.L., we continue to add new species to our seed photo collection and are working towards making these photos available to students and researchers through an online platform.