Seed Conservation Laboratory – Hawaiian Rare Plant Program

In the Seed Lab, over 24 million seeds are banked, representing more than 600 taxa of native Hawaiian plants, or more than 40% of the flora. Of these, over half are federally listed as endangered. The Seed Lab partners with Lyon’s Micropropagation Lab, the Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEPP), the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), and others to provide for both long-term storage – preservation of genetic diversity – and propagation of plants for restoration efforts. We also conduct research on seed characteristics such as storage behavior, longevity, dormancy, and germination.

Lyon’s Seed Conservation Lab also spearheads efforts to bank seeds of ʻōhiʻa during the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death crisis, including the #OhiaLove Campaign (2016-2017) and the ROD Seed Banking Initiative (2017 and ongoing). We’ve already collected and banked over 4 million seeds and are now scaling up the efforts across all islands, which included an ʻōhiʻa seed collection workshop series in 2017-2018, open to all, with another series coming up in 2019. Learn more at!

Watch the video below to learn more about what we do:

Lyon Arboretum was recognized by BGCI’s Global Seed Conservation Challenge for banking the rarest seeds in the world – Silene perlmanii!

Prior to the establishment of the Seed Conservation Lab’s earliest collections in 1995, little was known about how well seeds of native Hawaiian plant species might be stored. It is estimated that worldwide, about 18.5% of tropical or subtropical seeds are recalcitrant, meaning that they are desiccation-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. On the other hand, many Hawaiian seeds face other challenges with long-term storage. About 1/3 of our taxa have ’intermediate seeds’ requiring special storage conditions — a trend unknown in any other regional flora.

We continue to conduct research on new and existing collections, testing viability over time and building on over 23 years of data. Through our research program, the Seed Lab is emerging as a global leader in ex situ conservation of tropical seeds.

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. Sometimes these seedlings could be used by UH faculty and students for research. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.

Are you a UH Manoa undergraduate student interested in doing research with the Seed Lab? Visit this page for more info: BOT399/499