Comparative Seed Biology

Examining diversity and adaptations in seeds affecting functional traits, from longevity and stress tolerance to germination.

Seed diversity - image of lots of different seeds on a black background

Examining diversity and adaptations in seeds, from longevity to germination.

Knowledge of seed biology is central not only to understanding plant regeneration and ecosystem resilience, but also to conservation, global agriculture and food security.

The Comparative Seed Biology team focuses on key seed functional traits in wild plant species, especially traits related to germination, longevity and stress. We use the latest lab-based techniques and draw on the extraordinary collections of the Millennium Seed Bank to study seeds within and across plant lineages, such as the traits of the microseeds of orchids. We test the impacts of environmental variables such as temperature, water and salinity on germination, with significant implications for species distributions and extinction risk.

We also study extreme environments, even sending seeds into space, seeking the most stress-tolerant seeds to inform our understanding of seed lifespan.

Our research is central to the development of baseline evidence for seed conservation strategies, seed banking techniques and cryopreservation at Kew and beyond.

Team members

Senior research leader
Professor Hugh Pritchard

Research leaders
Dr Louise Colville 
Dr Charlotte Seal

Early career research fellows
Dr Dani Ballesteros
Dr Anne Visscher

PhD students
Waheed Arshad – University of London Royal Holloway College
Surya Diantina – Massey University, New Zealand 
Sara Gomez – University of Oviedo, Spain 

Projects