Members of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) visited the Paardeplaats Nature Retreat on the Long Tom Pass in June. They collected indigenous seeds for conservation as part of the research conducted for the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP).
The team consisted of a horticulturist at Sanbi, Fergy Nkadimeng (MSBP technician seed conservator based in Pretoria, Ntsakisi Masia (technical seed conservator based in Thohoyandou, Limpopo) and Thapelo Morotoba (MSBP volunteer).
The research is sponsored by MSBP and is linked to the London National Botanical Garden.
“Two in five plant species in the world risk extinction and those in South Africa are no exception. It is a race against time to save them, and conserving seeds is an effort to safeguard them for future usage,” said Nkadimeng.
The bank is an international project and aims to collect and conserve seeds from 25% of the world’s orthodox plant species.
About 97 countries contribute to the seed bank. Sanbi is considered as an important and key partner in this project.
According to Nkadimeng, their observations at the retreat were very rich, considering the different grassland species they were able to collect.
Eight seed collections were made on the pass, which will be banked, with international recognition to the Long Tom Pass and Paardeplaats.
Nkadimeng also said the team was welcomed by Brian and Gerda Whitehorn, the owners of Paardeplaats. The Whitehorn couple know the mountains and terrain like the palm of their hands and were able to provide valuable input.
“Collecting seeds is not just picking whatever is available. We are trained on how to distinguish unviable material from high-quality seeds. It is also important to distinguish between the seeds that can be dried and frozen. Not all of them can be preserved. There are also very specific methods for collecting field data and herbarium specimens of the mother plants,” said Nkadimeng.
The researchers are urging South Africans to work together in conserving seeds for future insurance because seeds can live up to 100 years in storage.