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Kew works with partners in Lebanon to store seeds of native wild species

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership with the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute is saving native wild species

MSB and partner staff inspecting collected seeds in Lebanon (Image: Andrew McRobb, RBG Kew)

The need for seed

Kew works with its partners in Lebanon to store seeds of native wild species, especially those that are threatened or already known to be useful.

It’s a seed collector’s heaven there – twice the number of species than the UK in an area only the size of Wales. Around 300 of these grow nowhere else in the world.

Kew's Michiel van Slageren says “Here I am working to check our latest seed collections with Najib Alhindi, at the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute. We often have to work late to process samples from each day’s collecting, making sure they are in top condition for storage”.

A thorny problem

A team from Kew and the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute spotted six rare Acanthus syriacus plants by a road in 1998. They found no seeds that day, and returning the next year they found the plants diseased and damaged by insects.

The team persisted and went back every year. Finally on their fourth visit they found ripe seeds to collect. These are now safely stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.

This plant is one of the most difficult species for seed collecting because its spines are so hard and sharp. These spines should protect the plant from being eaten or damaged, but they are so painful to farmers and their cattle that the farmers cut them down and the plant is now endangered.

Find out more about Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership in Lebanon

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13 June 2010
This is a great story about the persistence of Kew and its seed collectors. It is this persistence that will make the project even more succesful and help save our planet.