Seed conservation of Abies bracteata at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Cheryl Birker, Seed Conservation Program Manager and Evan Meyer, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Abies bracteata(Bristlecone fir; Santa Lucia fir) is a 12-30 meter tall tree restricted to a small, wildfire prone range in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the central coast of California. While several botanical gardens maintain living specimens, it remains rare in cultivation and until this project, seeds had yet to be conserved in agermplasmrepository for long-term conservation. In 2014 Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) partnered with the United States Forest Service to seed bankAbies bracteata, but a number of complications postponed the collection, including low cone production, high seed predation, and cone inaccessibility. The populations have been impacted by years of drought as well as by the 2016 Soberanes fire, which also impeded collecting efforts. In 2017, a maternal-line conservation seed collection was made with the help of a tree climber and some unconventional collecting techniques. Seeds are now stored in the RSABG seed bank, with a backup collection at the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation and a living collection in production in the RSABG nursery facility. The lessons learned during this collecting effort will help inform future collections ofAbies bracteatafrom additional populations throughout its range.