Pressures on the environment are so great in many areas that it is not always possible to conserve plants in their natural habitats. While we cannot always guarantee the safety of a plant in even the best-protected nature reserve, plant seeds can be kept safely for hundreds of years in a seed bank. Should a plant become extinct in the wild, with its seeds stored in a seed bank, it will not be lost forever. Seed banks are also very efficient and cost-effective means of conserving plants, because the seed occupies very little space and requires only periodic attention.
The seed collection program is built primarily on the cooperation of private landowners and the hard work of more than 100 trained volunteers. Volunteers in the field who can watch and monitor the plants make it possible for the project to collect in more places at once. Many landowners get excited about the project and become seed collectors themselves. Another key part of the project is outreach and education, which emphasizes the importance of a diverse native plant population. Native plants play critical roles in the ecosystem, providing wildlife habitat, contributing to water quality, flood management and soil stability.
The Wildflower Center collects and stores seed from keystone species in the plant communities of Texas. These seeds are used by research scientists in propagation studies, reintroduction and environmental restoration efforts and safeguarded as a hedge against possible extinction in the wild. To request seed in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's seed bank, please contact the Senior Program Manager of the Plant Conservation Program.
List of Texas species that are in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Seed Bank.
Emerald ash borer (EAB) has killed millions of native ashes (Fraxinus spp.) as it spreads throughout eastern North America. Before EAB arrives in Texas under its own power or hitch hiking in a stack of firewood, the Wildflower Center proposes to coordinate the efforts of citizen scientists to preserve an adequate amount of genetic variation in at least three species of ash, Fraxinus americana (white ash), F. texensis (Texas ash) and F. pennsylvanica (green ash).
White ash and green ash are major components of riparian corridors in East Texas. Loss of ash will create space for undesirable non-native plants and lead to increases in soil and water temperatures. These changes will negatively impact bird species that feed on samaras, caterpillars that feed on leaves, bats that roost in crevasses and fish that prefer cool waters.
Bruce Leander, Wildflower Center volunteer photographer, put his considerable skills to the test this winter when he set out to chronicle hundreds of seeds of Texas species collected by the Wildflower Center for seed bank storage. The process required the use of a high quality macro lens with extension tubes and three flash units to capture the beautiful intricacy of seeds of plants the Center hopes to protect from extinction.
The seedling recognition project was carried out at the Wildflower Center between 1985 and 1989 in an effort to photo document the different growth stages (cradle to grave) of wildflower species commonly found in mail order seed packets. About 100 species were tracked, about 75% of which were native to the U.S. Aerial and side views of the plants were taken at the first true leaves stage, mid-growth, and flowering stage.
Seeds of Success was established in 2001 by the Bureau of Land Management(BLM) the Royal Botanic Gardens and many additional partners including the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to collect, conserve, and develop native plant materials for stabilizing, rehabilitating and restoring lands in the United States. These partners share a common protocol and coordinate seed collecting and species targeting efforts. Collected material is being used for research such as germination trials, common garden studies, and protocol establishment. Portions of each collection are also being held in long-term storage facilities for conservation.
The Wildflower Center was the first non-governmental organization to be invited to participate in the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) Project, a global plant conservation effort developed by the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, United Kingdom. The MSB Project coordinated work by more than 30 organizations in 20 countries worldwide and is one of the most ambitious plant conservation initiatives ever having conserved seeds from about 10 percent of the world's plant species.
The Wildflower Center is charged with Texas seed conservation, which is no easy task in a state that is larger than some countries. It focuses its efforts on collecting and storing the seeds of common species of plants, not those that are endangered or threatened, which makes it part of the only global program of this kind. The goal is to try to collect 10,000 to 20,000 seeds of each targeted species. If they were to try to collect that many rare or endangered plants they could almost take a population into extinction.
List of Texas species that were collected for the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP).