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Highdown Gardens begins work to protect its unique plant collection by working with Kew's Millennium Seed Bank

Released: Wednesday, 08 November 2017

Worthing Borough Council is very excited to announce that we have just concluded the first stage of a new working relationship with Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex.

The seed collections in the Kew Millennium Seed Bank constitute the largest and most diverse wild plant species genetic resource in the world, conserving almost 37,000 plant species from across the globe. The purpose-built facility at Wakehurst is based around a vast vault for the long-term storage of seeds for research and conservation. Following collection, seeds are cleaned, dried, and a sample is x-rayed before being stored in deep-freeze chambers (~ -20°C) within the vault.

Highdown Gardens was created by Sir Frederick Stern beginning in 1909 until his death in 1967 when the gardens were bequeathed to Worthing Borough Council and the people of Worthing. The gardens were recognised as a National Collection of Plants in 1989 acknowledging Stern's work with pioneering plant hunters to collect plants that would tolerate the chalk conditions on the South Downs.

Initial investigation of a sample of 180 species at Highdown Gardens yielded 80 species whose seed is not currently held at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank. Of these 80 plants, 10 were at the ideal stage of seed ripeness to be collected on Wednesday 25th October 2017. Two members of the Seed Collections Team from Wakehurst joined the Highdown team to collect seeds from the following species:

The collections of seeds will provide a safety net against these species' extinction in the wild. The seed collections are accessible resources for research, and for the creation of sustainable solutions to the great problems facing the world - food security, disease, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Sarah Gattiker, of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, said:

“Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Project is very happy to support the efforts of Worthing Borough Council to conserve the special collections at Highdown Gardens. These initial seed collection are the first step of a long-term project to preserve the genetic importance of the plants grown by Stern at Highdown.”

See also:

Photo: Gary Prescod (centre), Head Gardener at Highdown Gardens, collecting seeds with two members of the Conservation team from Wakehurst

2017-11-02 - Gary Prescod (centre) collecting seeds with two members of the Conservation team from Wakehurst

(PR17-155)

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