Bush Blitz seed bankers conserve iconic banksia

Collecting banksia seed requires ingenuity!

The seeds will be vacuum sealed and stored at minus 50⁰C for up to 200 years

I’ve been out helping James Wood and Natalie Tapson, from the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens, to collect seed from a small and declining single population of Banksia serrata on Flinders Island.

One third of the population has died and less than 100 specimens remain – possibly due to Phytopthora cinnamomi, an infection known to exist in the area. If the population dies, the collected seed could be used to re-establish the population and maintain its genetic diversity elsewhere on the island.

We collected fruit from 50 Banksia serrata trees to ensure the sample represents the genetic diversity of the population - and to get enough seed! They’ll be moved to the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre where the fruit will be baked in an oven at around 200⁰C for 10 minutes to release the seeds. These will be aspirated to blow away empty or infested seeds. Next, to work out how much seed is viable, a sample of 50 will be cut and viewed under the microscope to check whether the embryo is healthy. If we managed to collect more than 500 seeds, testing will be done to determine the best way to germinate the seed.

The population is one of only two known to occur in Tasmania – the other is at Sisters Beach on the mainland. Known to local residents since the 1950s, it was not until the early 1990s that the botanical community became aware of the Flinders Island population.

The Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre is part of the Australian Seedbank Partnership - a network of seed conservation centres across Australia. Established in 2005, its collections currently include 57 per cent of Tasmania’s rare and threatened flora.

Tasmania is home to only one other existing banksia species and a third species, found only on King Island, has become extinct.

Mim, Bush Blitz

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia that is helping fill the gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity within Australia’s national system of conservation reserves.