Our Native Plant Seed Bank aims to conserve the diversity of San Diego County’s flora by drying and freezing seed for long-term storage. Each seed collection conserves the invaluable genetic material of thousands of individuals from a plant population. Over 550 such collections reside in the freezers at the Beckman Center and the Botanical Conservation Center, representing over 375 unique plant taxa.
The seeds stored in the Native Plant Seed Bank provide insurance against catastrophic loss in the wild, protect against erosion of genetic diversity by habitat fragmentation and loss, offer material for research into germination cues and propagation, and provide material for restoration. Our Plant Conservation team not only carefully collects seed and curates the bank, but also conducts research to develop dormancy-breaking protocols that ensure seeds can be grown as needed.
Seed has been withdrawn from the bank to propagate plants to improve the habitat of coastal cactus wrens and other coastal sage scrub dependent plants and animals. Tecate cypress seeds have been propagated in order to establish a field gene bank to provide large amounts of seed should one of the three remaining populations in the county be consumed by fire. We have also conducted research that informs the best uses of seed for enhancement plantings, including a study of San Diego thornmint examining the phenological and morphological differences between populations.
We continue our involvement with national seed collecting efforts through the Seeds of Success Program and the Millennium Seed Bank Project conducted by the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. Our current efforts center around the county’s rare, threatened, and endangered plants as recognized by the California Native Plant Society rare plant inventory. We participate in the California Plant Rescue project, an effort by botanical institutions throughout the state, the California Native Plant Society, and the Center for Plant Conservation to conserve the species most at risk in California.