Nov 092010

An international seed bank has reached its target of collecting 10% of the world’s wild plants, with seeds of a pink banana among its latest entries.

The wild banana, Musa itinerans, is a favourite of wild Asian elephants.

Seeds from the plant, which is under threat from agriculture, join 1.7 billion already stored by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership.

The project has been described as an “insurance strategy” against future biodiversity losses.

The seed bank partnership, which involves more than 120 organisations in 54 countries, is now aiming to collect and conserve seeds from a quarter of the Earth’s flowering plant species by 2020.

All the seeds are kept both in their country of origin and in Royal Botanic Gardens Kew‘s premises at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex, where they are stored in underground vaults that are kept at -20C.

The plant material is dried, cleaned and sorted, ensuring only the finest specimens make it into the giant freezers. There, the cold and arid conditions keep the seeds in pristine condition for anywhere between a few years to thousands of years, depending on the species.

The aim is that each seed stored in the bank can be regrown, should the need arise.

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