Banking the UK's Seeds

A seed collector wearing personal protective equipment standing in a tarn holding a plastic bag looking at the water
Staff of the UK Flora Project collecting aquatics on the island of South Uist, Scotland. (Photo: Stephanie Miles, RBG Kew).

The Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) provides the national repository for seeds and associated knowledge, for the purposes of long term conservation, and to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of native plant material available for research, conservation and habitat restoration in the UK.

We seek to enhance the resilience and coherence of the UK's ecological network, and to protect species and habitats, which support the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services. To facilitate these objectives, we ensure that suitable plant material and information is available to support conservation and research initiatives. Our work is shared between four current projects, the UK Threatened Flora Project, the UK Ash Collecting Project, the Living Ash Project and the UK Native Seed Hub.

We are working to maintain, augment and improve the UK collections held in the MSB, to make them more genetically comprehensive and of sufficient number to be of use for UK science and conservation. Research is carried out in order to remove constraints to collecting, seed banking, germinating and propagating the UK flora, including better understanding the population genetics of our native plants.

Programme Description

Since the mid-twentieth century, species-rich habitats in the UK have been destroyed or degraded at an alarming rate. Surviving patches of habitat are unsustainably small and fragmented, vulnerable to further degradation in the face of a changing climate and ever-growing demands on the natural environment. Many species, particularly trees, are under significant threat from an increasing number of pest and disease outbreaks.

The MSB UK activities enables the provision of suitable plant material and data to support conservation and research initiatives. We continue to work with botanists across the UK to bank those very tricky final species which are often hard to identify or rarely seed. We are also working to increase both the overall quantity of UK seed collections in the MSB, and to increase the genetic representativeness of those collections, in order to ensure we can provide high quality collections for use in science, education and conservation. Particular attention is being paid to capturing genetic representativeness for the woody flora of the UK.

In 2011 we launched the UK Native Seed Hub, in order to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of native plants and seeds available for conservation and habitat restoration in the UK landscape. We supply high quality seed and plug plants of known provenance for re-introduction and restoration projects.

We carry out research to overcome the constraints to collecting, banking and using the seed of the UK flora. This includes understanding the storage, germination and propagation requirements of 'difficult' species, and how best to make use of seed in the landscape. Genetic studies seek to better understand how to capture genetically representative collections of the UK flora, and the risks associated with using seed of a certain provenance in different parts of the UK. We work with a wide range of partners across the UK, and regularly share scientific, technical and practical skills in order to raise the capacity across the UK for seed collecting, banking and use.

Current projects

Past projects

  • UK National Tree Seed Project

Project Partners

We work with over 60 partners from all over the UK. These partners range from national statutory agencies such as Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission, to large conservation organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and the Woodland Trust, through to other botanic gardens and a range of small local conservation and woodland groups.

Project Funders

Key funders are Players of People's Postcode Lottery, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, The Steel Charitable Trust and The John Coates Charitable Trust.

Recent publications

Recent publications from Banking the UK's seeds include:

Additional Information

For further information about the UK programme please contact Ted Chapman, UK Conservation Partnership Co-ordinator at the MSB.

Other members of the UK team: Stephanie Miles, Jennifer Peach, Chris Cockel, Owen Blake, Isabel Negri, Matthew Jeffrey, Rachael Davies, Roberta Garguilo & Alice Livingstone.

For resources related to Banking the UK's Seed, please visit our resources page.

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