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In Vitro Conservation of Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (L. Bailey) H.E. Moore)

Successful seed germination of a rare palm in the laboratory can help to conserve its dwindling population in the wild.

 Seedling of Hyophorbe americaulis.

The ‘bottle palm’, Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (L. Bailey) H.E. Moore, is endemic to Mauritius, where it is confined to lowland palm savannah on Round Island. By the 1970s, the species faced extinction in the wild. Currently, there are more than 250 palm trees that make up the wild population in nature. However, germination of seeds in the wild takes 5-6 months and is sporadic. For this reason, in vitro germination of seeds and the induction of somatic embryos were investigated. Seedlings were used to develop somatic embryos which are similar to zygotic embryos in morphology and function. Plants can be raised from somatic embryos in large numbers.

This method will have applications for other related palms which produce limited number of seeds. The added benefit of somatic embryos as propagules for long-term storage (cryopreservation) makes it useful for other rare palms in danger of extinction. Hyophorbe amaricaulis, a species closely related to bottle palm and one of the world's rarest palms, is endemic to Mauritius. Its seeds are non-viable under in vivo and in vitro conditions according to the studies conducted elsewhere.

Successful protocol development in bottle palm may help to rescue H. amaricaulis which survives as only a single specimen in a botanic garden. Preliminary studies have been conducted to develop protocol for the germination of H. amaricaulis which may be effective in rescuing this species from the brink of extinction.

Key papers published since 2006.
1. Asmussen-Lange, C.B., Maunder, M. & Fay, M.F. (2011). Conservation genetics of the critically endangered Round Island bottle palm, Hyophorbe lagenicaulis: can cultivated stocks supplement a residual wild population? Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 167: XX-XX.
2. Reed, B.M., Sarasan, V., Kane, M., Bunn, E., & Pence V.C. (2011). Biodiversity conservation and conservation biotechnology tools. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol-Plant 47: 1-4
3. Sarasan, V. (2010). Importance of in vitro technology to future conservation programmes worldwide. Kew Bulletin 65: 549–554
4. Sarasan, V., Cripps, R., Ramsay, M.M., Atherton, C., McMichen, M., Prendergast, G., & Rowntree, J.K. (2006). Conservation in vitro of threatened plants- Progress in the last decade. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol-Plant. 42:206-214
 

Project partners and collaborators

MauritiusNational Parks and Conservation Services

Project funders

UKThreatened Plants Appeal, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Project team

HPEViswambharan Sarasan
Jodrell LaboratoryMike Fay
Seed Conservation DepartmentHugh Pritchard
Science Teams: 
Project Leader: