Effort grows to preserve California’s threatened plant species
Scientists and botanists are on a campaign to save seeds for future generations.
As California and much of the West tries to recover from devastating wildfires, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont is leading the way in harvesting with its “Seeds of Success” program. It centers around the belief that replanting seeds, although subtle, is crucial to the continued health of any ecosystem.
The garden cultivates and maintains a seed bank safeguarding California’s native plants. It’s a big job. The program has prioritized its work to start with the 2,300 species that are listed as rare, threatened or endangered by the California Native Plant Society.
“The seed bank at the garden is an insurance policy for the future, a sort of backup system that allows us to hedge bets against disasters or development,” said Naomi Fraga, the garden’s director of conservation programs.
The garden is working with the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration campaign to help return native plants to restored landscapes. The seed bank already holds conservation seed collections of more than 400 rare plant species, and is the largest seed bank for California native plants. The goal this year has been to conserve seed collections of at least 30 species that haven’t been kept in long-term storage. Collection sites are the Mojave Desert, Tehachapi Mountains, Transverse Ranges and the southern Sierra Nevada.
Seeds from the sample populations are stored in freezers at the Claremont facility, which contains the largest and most diverse collections of its kind. The seeds are all indigenous to the state, such as California buckwheat and golden yarrow.
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