Seed conservation in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories

By: Tom Heller - 29/11/2013

Tom Heller from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank brings partners from across the Caribbean together to learn about banking seeds of their native plants.

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Capacity building

Capacity building is an important part of Kew’s work and is vital to help realise successful and lasting plant conservation in places where it is needed most.

October saw another example of the diverse ways in which Kew works to help the UK Overseas Territories secure the future of their great plant diversity. Partners from all five of the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands) gathered at the Turks and Caicos Islands’ National Environment Centre (NEC) for a workshop on seed conservation.

Seed conservation workshop

The meeting was generously hosted by TCI’s Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs, as part of a project to establish local seed banks in the UKOTs. The project, funded through Darwin Plus, the Darwin Initiative’s Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund, is enabling our partners to target their highest conservation priority plants for collecting and banking in-country, where they will be available for use in propagation and conservation work. Duplicate collections will also be stored at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, for additional long-term security.

Hands-on sessions

As well as providing an opportunity to cover the most important principles behind seed conservation, the meeting also allowed my MSB colleague Janet Terry and me to give participants practical experience of many of the skills required to make and process high quality collections of seeds. This included heading out into the Turks and Caicos Islands bush to put into practice all of the seed quality and sampling considerations you need when collecting.

We were even able to make a collection of one of the Caicos Islands’ inconspicuous yet alluring endemics, Stenandrium carolinae.

Photo of Stenandrium carolinae

Stenandrium carolinae, found only in the Caicos Islands (Image: Tom Heller, RBG Kew)

Cleaning fruit

Back at the NEC, participants were able to have a go at cleaning various fruit types, from dry grass seed heads to fleshy berries, using sieves and rubber matting. 

Photo of people learning to clean seeds

Participants learn how to clean seed collections with Janet Terry (Image: Tom Heller, RBG Kew)

The Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs’ native plant nursery

We also visited the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs’ native plant nursery on North Caicos, itself developed through support from the Overseas Territories Environment Programme, a predecessor of Darwin Plus. Here, essential propagation work on the threatened native Caicos pine is underway, as well as propagation of other important native species. It was a great opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by the capacity to store seed locally in supporting such valuable conservation work.


Photo of visitors to the TCI Native Plants Nursery

The Turks and Caicos Native Plants Nursery (Image: Tom Heller, RBG Kew)


Our partners have now returned home, equipped with the skills needed to save the seeds of their most important plant species, as well as having forged new links with colleagues across the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories. 

Photo of project partners from the Caribbean UKOTs

Project partners from Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands and RBG Kew (Image: C.A.Samuel, Anguilla Department of Environment) 

- Tom -


Related links

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1 comment on 'Seed conservation in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories'

Martin says

08/12/2013 3:34:36 PM | Report abuse

An excellent project bringing together UKOTs partners from across the Caribbean. I am working in BVI with colleagues that attended the workshop. They have been commenting on the workshop and the skills learned. They were particularly encouraged by the native species nursery on North Caicos. Presentations given by workshop participants Keith and Marcus were very well received by their co-workers. Keep up the great work!

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