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Seed Conservation Laboratory – Hawaiian Rare Plant Program

Cyanea magnicalyx

haha (Cyanea magnicalyx) fruit with seeds

In the Seed Lab, over 8 million seeds are banked, representing more than 400 taxa of native Hawaiian plants. Of these, about half are federally listed as threatened or endangered. The Seed Lab partners with the Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEPP), the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), and other agencies within the state to provide for both long-term storage – preservation of genetic variation – and propagation of plants for restoration efforts. However, we also conduct original research on seed characteristics such as storage behavior, longevity, dormancy, and germination.

 

Alphitonia ponderosa

kauila (Alphitonia ponderosa) fruit with seeds

Prior to the establishment of the Seed Conservation Lab in 1995, little was known about how well seeds of native Hawaiian plant species might be stored. It is estimated that worldwide, about 20% of seeds are recalcitrant, meaning that they are dessication-sensitive and cannot be stored long-term. However, with our current knowledge, only about 6% of Hawaiian taxa have recalcitrant seeds – great news for our seed banking efforts.
We continue to conduct research on our existing collections, testing viability under different conditions at various intervals over the years, and we have data for some species that have been stored for 15 years or more. We have added several species of ferns to our collection and are beginning to study spore storage potential. We also continually seek to make collections of seeds for research on species that we do not understand as well yet. The Hawaiian flora continues to surprise us with new discoveries in seed characteristics and behavior!

 

Bidens torta

ko’oko’olau (Bidens torta) seeds sown on a petri dish for viability testing

Facilitating UH Research

The Seed Lab generates many native plant seedlings through our regular germination testing. While many of these are propagated for rare plant restoration efforts, we also do generate seedlings of more common species or other species that are not set aside for restoration. In the near future we hope to provide a continually updating list of upcoming seedlings that could be used by UH faculty and students for research. In the meantime, please contact us if you are interested in learning more.