kew.org > Kew Science > Projects > UK Flora Project

UK Flora Project

To enhance the UK collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank with a focus on threatened and useful species, and to optimise the storage and germination protocols for these collections.

Project details

Project Department: 
Project Leader: 
Funded By: 
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Objectives and outputs

Background

Current assessments indicate that many of the UK’s native plants are in decline due to ever-increasing pressures such as intensive agriculture, urbanisation, infrastructure development, pollution and climate change.

Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) has created a resource that can be used by researchers and conservation practitioners in the UK to aid species recovery and habitat restoration.  The UK Flora Project aims to enhance seed collections stored in the MSB with a focus on threatened and useful species, and to optimise the storage and germination protocols for these collections.

In 1997 the first phase of the MSB’s UK seed conservation work commenced with the ambitious target to conserve collections from all UK native flowering plant species that produce bankable seeds.

It was thought that some species may present special storage difficulties, for example aquatic plants which disperse their fruit or seeds under the water surface. Research at the MSB has found that, perhaps surprisingly, the majority of these species are easily stored under standard seed bank conditions, which means these seeds survive drying (desiccation-tolerance).

In 2015, 94% of the UK's native seed-bearing plant species was represented by seed collections at the MSB.  The UK Flora Project has enabled increased collecting effort and 97% has been stored to date.  This is the first time that any country has underpinned conservation of its wild flora in this way and the collections contribute to the UK's achievement of Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) relating to ex situ conservation of threatened plants. 

What about the remaining species not represented by collections in the MSB?  Many either do not produce seed in the UK, cannot be stored conventionally, or are too rare for a collection to be made without compromising the species' survival.  The UK Flora Project is continuing efforts to track down the last elusive species that do not fall into these categories and to safeguard our threatened flora by conserving collections from multiple populations across their range.  The priorities are to maintain and enhance existing collections, and to better understand their optimal storage and germination conditions. 

Many of the seed collections have been harvested by the active and skilled volunteer botanical community in the UK and we are indebted to them for their continuing commitment to the project. We also work in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the Botanical Society of the Britain and Ireland (BSBI) and specialist botanists.

Project Purpose

To enhance the UK collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank with a focus on threatened and useful species, and to optimise the storage and germination protocols for these collections. 

Project Outputs 

  • Additional UK collections available to the UK Native Seed Hub, and ensuring that 97% of UK native flora is conserved
  • Robust data collection, specialist advice and information sharing on UK seed collections 
  • Seeds made available for research to benefit people working in UK plant conservation and restoration projects and the production of more seeds to assist rare plant recovery
     

Partners and collaborators

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI)

A wide range of specialist botanists and volunteers across the UK