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Oxytenanthera abyssinica the billionth seed collected by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank

The billionth seed was presented to Gordon Brown, on 26 April 2007, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Gordon Brown holds the seed of Oxytenanthera abyssinica
Gordon Brown holding the billionth seed

Introducing Oxytenanthera abyssinica

The billionth seed is from an African bamboo, Oxytenanthera abyssinica, collected by the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership's partner institution in Mali, the Institut d’Economie Rurale. The plant species is a priority for conservation for a number of reasons - it is a very useful plant, its natural habitat is under increasing threat and it sets seed only once every seven years.

The bamboo is therefore highly valuable to local people. It is now a fully protected species in Mali - harvesting is carefully controlled and reintroduction programmes have been established.

Conservation of this valuable plant features the following:

  • Now a fully protected species in Mali, controlled and regulated by Forestry Authority.
  • In Mali, the government bans cutting of this bamboo to allow the overcut areas to regenerate to their full potential. Bamboo harvesting from state forests is allowed only with a special license.
  • Re-introduction programmes established in southern regions by Forestry Authority.
  • Forestry department is encouraging and helping with planting of this species in home gardens and communal lands.
  • In addition, in some areas of southern Mali, the Village Hunters’ Association regulates and gives permission to harvest bamboos and rattans for some specific duration and quantity to be collected, once a year after each rainy season.
  • Propagation is from cuttings and rhizomes. Seed is rare.
  • Planting materials are better raised from seeds (outbreeding and greater genetic variation).
  • Ex situ conservation via seeds is an insurance policy (replicates banking), guarantees the future of the species and allows further research on its biology.
  • The actual seed collections allow more propagation in forest nurseries and plantings for communal and private needs and uses in various localities. Consequently the natural stands will be sheltered from exploitation.
  • More control of the exploitation of these genetic resources and, in parallel, encouraging planting of useful species for specific needs and uses by the population, is being promoted.

Story by Sidi Sanogo, Institut d’Economie Rurale, Mali 

More about this project

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) based at Wakehurst, West Sussex, is regarded as one of the most ambitious conservation projects in the world. It holds the world's largest wild seed collection and works with over 100 partner organisations forming a global network, duplicating collections in partner seed banks to provide an effective insurance against the loss of species in their natural environments.

Everyone in the world depends on nature and ecosystem services such as clean air and water to provide the conditions for a decent, healthy and secure life. The need for the kind of insurance policy the Millennium Seed Bank provides has never been greater.

Paul Smith, Head of the Millennium Seed Bank

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, working with its international partners, aims to collect and bank seeds from 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020.

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