Done your spring planting yet? Well, today, April 26th, the Royal Botanic Gardens in England will not plant a seed. Instead they’ll put it in the bank. The seed is the billionth seed collected by the Gardens’ Millenium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world.
The Seed Bank was conceived in 1992 and has been called a Noah’s Ark for plants. The bank has capacity for seeds from half the world’s plants and already holds seeds representing 88 percent of English flora. By 2010, the Millenium seed bank hopes to have collected and conserved seeds from 10 percent of the world’s known wild flowering plant species, about 30,000 species.
The billionth seed in the collection is from African bamboo, species name Oxytenanthera abyssinica. The seed comes from Mali in West Africa, where the plant is used for construction and furniture making. But due to overharvesting, African bamboo is now endangered in Mali. It’s a conservation priority because of its usefulness, its threatened habitat, and the fact that it seeds only every seven years. It won’t set seed again until 2013.