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Identifying and assessing seeds

A collector must be certain that they have correctly identified the target species and take some time to assess the population for its potential to yield a good quality collection.

Assessing seeds on the Seeds of Success training course in Tucson, Arizona, Aug 2002 (Photo: Olivia Kwong, BLM)

Identifying seeds

Before collecting seed, the target plant needs to be accurately identified. To do this, collectors use any field guides and checklists that may be available for the region, and carefully note any distinguishing features, such as shape and colour of flower parts, as part of the comprehensive data recorded in the field.

To be certain that the correct name is used for the seed collection, a separate botanical specimen known as a voucher is provided. Ideally this will be a dried pressed plant but high quality photographs, DNA or seed are sometimes also used.

These voucher specimens are examined by taxonomists to confirm the correct name to be used initially for the seed collection, and are reviewed from time to time in response to new information about that plant group.

Assessing seeds

Once the target plant has been located and identified in the field, collectors assess whether enough plants are available which are ready to shed their seed.

They use a simple cut test to estimate the amount of damaged, infested or empty seeds.