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Seed collection expeditions

No two expeditions are the same. The key to a successful seed collecting expedition is thorough preparation and a flexible itinerary – there is no substitute for experience.
Seed collecting team in Mali
Seed collecting team in Mali

Collectors often need to travel to remote areas to reach natural vegetation in a suitable state for seed collecting. Conditions can be tough and teams are dependent on the experience of their members to safely and accurately make high quality collections. A typical expedition comprises several collectors representing two organisations, making an average of three seed collections per day while travelling widely across their collecting region in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

Collecting teams use a range of tools and guides to help locate target plants which are fruiting or target plants with ripe seeds. Expeditions are carefully planned but teams will vary their itineraries depending on weather conditions and the number of target species in fruit at the time of their visit.

Finding the plants

In many instances we rely substantially on our partners' knowledge', not only of what species should be collected as a priority, but also where they might be growing and when they would be dispersing seed. Partner institutes rely on a network of more local sources in-country, to augment and update their own knowledge too.

In other instances, often in less-developed countries, botanical infrastructure and information is not so well developed. However, the pressed specimens collected in herbaria over the last couple of centuries, frequently have a wealth of information on locality and flowering or fruiting time associated with them. These are valuable sources of this information when it is not easily available in-country.

Once it is digitised and available in a database, we are able to analyse this specimen information and compile it. One outcome of this process is that we produce collection guides for plant species and regions of priority for consevation. 

See our image gallery from a seed collecting trip to Slovakia

Watch the video: Safeguarding Namibia's flora