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The Daily Tar Heel

NC Botanical Garden works to save East Coast seeds

The North Carolina Botanical Garden has partnered with two botanical institutions in the northeast to start an eastern branch of the program Seeds of Success.

Seeds of Success is a native seed collection program started by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Though the program has existed since 2001, the majority of seed collection had taken place in the western United States — until this year. 

John Randall, director of conservation programs at the N.C. Botanical Garden, said it all stemmed from the garden’s involvement in the global Millennium Seed Bank project.

“We were chosen to help with the program because we had a long history of seed collection and expertise in that particular activity,” he said.

Randall recognized the need for a large-scale seed collection program on the east coast. He wrote a grant proposal with two other institutions, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank and the New England Wild Flower Society, to help found the Seeds of Success East Project.  

The U.S. Department of the Interior approved the Seeds of Success East Project and awarded the program $3.5 million for two years of operation. During these years, the three institutions will hire and train interns for 1,400 seed collections.

“One of the large goals for Seeds of Success is to bank — essentially — all wild seeds of the United States for the purpose of conservation, and that’s a very large, long-term goal,” said Edward Toth, director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank.

The seeds will be conserved and used in restoration projects on public lands, like national wildlife refuges, Randall said.

Michael Piantedosi, seed bank coordinator for the New England Wild Flower Society, said conserved seeds will ideally be used in local restoration efforts across the nation.

“It’s kind of important because there is no other program like it right now that can provide locally adapted seeds of a certain species,” Piantedosi said. "I think that each location has specialists that know the plants of their geographic region.”

Toth said it is important for seeds to stay within their geographic area of origin.

“Making the match between locally collected wild seeds within restoration projects is really critical for our long-term goals,” he said.

Amanda Faucette, conservation botanist at the N.C. Botanical Garden, said she thinks the general public isn’t aware of the importance of conservation.

“These are plants that most people might consider weeds, and people don’t realize how important they are to the whole ecosystem,” she said.

The need for conservation of and research about endangered plant species is clear, said Michael Kunz, a conservation ecologist at the Botanical Garden.

“Seed conservation is just one tool on the toolbelt to make sure that we have the ability to protect and save all pieces of that ecosystem.”

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