During August our production manager Samantha visited the Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst Gardens, south east England. Seed banks are sites that preserve seed for posterity, guarding against any future situation where a significant plant is a victim to climate change, disease or human caused destruction. Storing seed preserves the genetic diversity of a plant, so it can be grown and re-established in a safer area to protect the plants from total extinction. It also helps safeguard against genetic bottlenecking, where populations become so small that genetic diversity is lost and the robustness of the populations are compromised as a result. This is the same reason we eco-source from genetically healthy populations of plants with 50+ individuals -meaning we sometimes have to source many kms away as the Queenstown Lakes area has been extensively depopulated of native plants.
The Millennium Seed Bank is of international significance, considered the most diverse seed source on Earth, with over 40000 different species of plants in storage. Operated by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Millennium Seed Bank works with seed banks from all over the world, sharing seed and knowledge with 189 countries. At the cutting edge of seed storage technology, the vault where the seeds are held runs underneath the main building housing many laboratories. With seeds held at -20 C, and some even cryopreserved down to -196 C, protective suits have to be worn to enter the vault. Understandably only staff are able to enter the vault, giving it a mystical quality.