Using macrophotography in support of seed science and art for public outreach

Steven Blackwell, Desert Botanical Garden

Seeds are as diverse and beautiful as the plants from which they derive. However, due to their size and scale their details are often overlooked. Using macrophotography techniques the Seed Photography Lab (SPL) at the Desert Botanical Garden creates magnified, high-resolution digital images of seeds that can yield valuable information for researchers. These images can provide visual evidence to support taxonomic studies or to broaden the understanding of the seed biology and ecology of a species. Current projects include imaging seeds of Arizona cactus taxa and documenting seed and embryo morphology to create a better understanding of the dormancy mechanisms of rare species. Just as importantly, these images also have the ability to engage the public by capturing the innate beauty and diversity of seeds. The macrophotography system consists of professional-grade digital photography equipment, advanced imaging software, and precision hardware. Together these components allow for the capture of highly detailed images throughout the depth of the seed resulting in images that are both scientifically valuable and aesthetically compelling. These images are stored in the Desert Botanical Garden’s web-based living collections management system at and are available for use by researchers and the public anywhere in the world. Using high-resolution imaging technology can enhance the value of seed collections and provide a valuable resource to both plant researchers and the public.