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Collecting the flora of Bulgaria

Collecting seed from the flora of Bulgaria, for conservation in the Millennium Seed Bank.
Kew and Bulgarian scientists study Lilium jankae on Vishnu Mountain

Bulgaria is undergoing rapid development and habitat is being lost at a fast rate due to land conversion into holiday resorts, golf courses, ski tracks and timber extraction. Coastal, steppe, forest and alpine habitats are at particular risk. Of the flora, 574 of 3572 species are protected by Bulgarian law. Bulgarian priorities for ex situ conservation of wild plant species have been set out in the National Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation (1995) and two 5-year National Plans for Biodiversity Conservation 2000-2005, 2005-2010.

Kew has been working with the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences since 2005 to safeguard this threatened flora. This project originally started under the MSBP Seed Banking Worldwide project but has since continued as a project in its own right. The aims are:

  • to develop a collecting programme for seed conservation of Bulgarian wild plant species;
  • to establish seed collecting practice according to international standards;
  • to establish verified and well documented seed collections of Bulgarian wild plant species in the MSB;
  • to meet national priorities by prioritizing collecting and conservation of species with conservation status.

Already, the team has made great progress in collecting seed from species native to Bulgaria, in particular those of great conservation and economic importance. The team have already made and conserved 530 species (13% of the flora) of which 114 species are on the Bulgarian Red List, 76 are protected by law, 61 are endemic to the Balkans, and 180 are of economic importance.

The project has focused on supporting fieldwork to collect the flora, and the provision of equipment and training to improve the infrastructure for managing those collections.

These partners have a particular interest in micropropagation of their collections. Kew has hosted a visit by a Bulgarian PhD student from the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research. She spent time at Kew Conservation Biotechnology Unit and at the Millennium Seed Bank to learn techniques for seed conservation and plant propagation.

Portions of some of these collections are also held at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research where they are used for research, ultimately allowing conservation in the wild.

Talks were held in 2011 to consider the future direction of the project. It is envisaged that the project will continue to collect seed from the Bulgarian flora, with greater emphasis on the conservation of those collections within Bulgaria, and use of those collections to re-introduce species, alongside research on overcoming technical and scientific constraints to the conservation of highly threatened species. Continuation of this project is dependent on identification of funds.

Key papers published since 2006

  • Bogdanova Y., Stanilova M., Gussev Ch., Bosseva Y., Stoeva T. 2008. In vitro propagation of Pancratium maritimum L. (Amaryllidaceae) by liquid cultures. Propagation of ornamental plants 8(1): 45-46, ISSN 1311-9109.
  • Panayotova L., Ivanova T., Bogdanova Y., Gussev Ch., Stanilova M., Bosseva Y., Stoeva T. 2008. In vitro cultivation of plant species from sandy dunes along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Phytologia Balcanica 14(1): 119-123, ISSN 1310-7771.

Project partners and collaborators


Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research, Bulgarian National Academy of Sciences

Project funders


Millennium Commission