Millennium Seed Bank

ATRIUM CLOSED Learn about our scientific mission to protect wild plant biodiversity in our underground seed bank.

Millennium Seed Bank solar panels

We are sorry to inform you that the Atrium in the Millennium Seed Bank is closed until further notice in line with government guidance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

In the heart of rural Sussex lies a treasure trove of scientific excellence.  

The Millennium Seed Bank hides an underground collection of over 2.4 billion seeds from around the world, banking them to conserve them for the future.  

Enter our glass atrium, and you’ll see our scientists at work in front of your very eyes. You can track the journey of a seed from our drying chamber, though seed cleaning and processing to our research stations and explore our interactive exhibitions.  

Right beneath your feet are our sub-zero chambers, where we store seeds collected around the world by our global partnership in flood, bomb and radiation-proof vaults.  

Outside our building, planted parterres showcase eight threatened habitats of the British Isles.  

 

A scientist in the Millennium Seed Bank vault
The Millennium Seed Bank safeguards wild plant diversity. ©RBG Kew

Why do we bank seeds? 

With two in five plant species at risk of extinction, it’s a race against time to protect our incredible plant life.  

By storing seeds ex situ (away from their natural habitat) and supporting seed banks in countries around the globe, we are giving a safe home to some of the world’s most threatened plants.  

It means that we can germinate and reintroduce these plants back into the wild or use them for scientific research in finding our future food or medicines. 

We have nearly all the UK’s native plant species preserved in our seed bank. 

Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst
Seeds stored at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, Wolfgang Stuppy © RBG Kew

Where do we collect seeds from? 

The MSB is the largest, most diverse wild plant species genetic resource in the world; a fantastic result of contributions from 97 countries since 2000.  

Our scientists and their partners collect seeds from some of the most extreme and familiar landscapes.  

Seed collections are stored in the country where they were collected, and a part of the collection is sent to the MSB for safety backup. 

We prioritise: 

  • Plants that with seeds that can tolerate being dried and frozen  

  • Areas vulnerable to climate change: alpine, dryland, coastal and island ecosystems  

  • Plants that are useful for livelihoods and economies 

  • Plants that are relatives of to those that we eat 

  • Plants that are endemic to that location (not found anywhere else)  

  • Plants that are threatened in the wild.

This scientific hub is a great introduction into the vital work that Kew scientists do every day.  

In fact, many of the plants grown in Wakehurst’s botanic garden started their life in this very place.  

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