Updates to the Missouri Botanical Garden Seed Bank

Meg Engelhardt, Missouri Botanical Garden

As a founding member of the CPC, the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) has been seed banking for decades. The seed bank contains three core collections resulting from MBG’s global field programs in plant conservation, horticulture, and ethnobotany. It currently holds over 2,400 accessions of orthodox seeds representing 1,190 different species, of which 203 are globally rare or threatened. In 2020, MBG was awarded a grant from IMLS to upgrade its seed bank curation through 1) implementation of a viability testing program through germination and tetrazolium testing, and 2) examining seed quality of current and incoming seed collections using X-ray. The Kubtec Expert-80 X-ray machine has allowed us to assess seed quality in older accessions (dating back to 1985) in which we have little baseline data. As an unplanned bonus, we realized that we can often check seed counts and quality without opening the foil packs and subjecting seeds to various humidity. Quality assessment will be important as we plan and prioritize future grow-outs from older accessions and other conservation-related projects. All new incoming accessions can be x-ray screened for seed quality, providing important baseline information on the accession and for our seed research and restoration projects with rare plants. Over the next three years we expect to complete viability tests on 800 collections/year prioritizing our most valuable collections and x-ray 90% of all current and incoming seed collections. All results, including x-ray images, are publicly available at www.livingcollections.org.