Seeds for the future

The best way to conserve plants is in their natural habitat. However, conserving plants away from the wild can be useful for research, and sometimes necessary for their survival. Seed-banking is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to conserve plants. Seed collections are used for research, habitat restoration and, when necessary, to reintroduce threatened species back to the wild.

Seeds must be carefully prepared for their time in the seedbank. Seed-bearing fruits are dried and their seeds are removed and cleaned to ensure that only high-quality seeds are kept - free from insects and impurities.

Fire - some like it hot

Some banksias need the heat of a bushfire to release the seeds from their woody cones. Here in the laboratory, the heat of a blowtorch is used to open the seed-bearing fruit walls, releasing the banksia seed for collection.

Water - smash and grab

The seeds of many rainforest plants are inside a fleshy fruit which is softened by soaking, so the seeds are more easily released. The seeds are then sieved and dried thoroughly before being packaged for long-term storage.

Air - unnatural selection

Native daisies produce a large number of single-seeded fruits on each flower head but many seeds are infertile. A mechanical aspirator is used to select the fertile seeds containing embryos, which are larger and heavier than infertile ones.