Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership is working with agency Seeds of Success to collect native seeds in Texas
Cacti come in extreme shapes to survive extreme desert environments. Hedgehog cacti, like the strawberry pitaya, are covered with long spines to defend against desperate desert creatures looking for lunch. But when it’s time to spread their seeds, the juicy fruits ripen and drop their spines, to invite everyone round for a takeaway.
The strawberry pitaya cactus has delicate, pretty flowers. When its fruits ripen, they smell delicious and taste of strawberry and kiwi. They are by far the best to eat of several related species of cacti. Lots of people collect them to eat, but Kew and our Texan partners collect them to save the seeds.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership works with Seeds of Success, a multi-agency partnership collecting native seeds across the USA. Collections in Texas are coordinated by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre, and 500 wild species are now safely banked in both America and the UK. Saved seeds are also being used to restore local landscapes damaged by farming, industry or natural catastrophes.
Volunteer Tom Hallowell says “In the wide open expanses of Texas, it takes some doing to notice where wild seeds are ripening and then pluck them at just the right time. I am a volunteer with Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Statewide, from different organisations, there are hundreds of us trained up and outdoors.”