Noah’s Ark for plants hits important milestone: 40,000 different plant species now banked at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst - RGB Kew

Shelving units filled with glass bottles lying on their sides bathed in blue light
Millennium Seed Bank Vaults (image: Wolfgang Stuppy © RBG Kew)

A world-leading seed conservation programme led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is celebrating a major milestone today in its efforts to preserve rare, threatened, and important wild plants. As of 1st March, the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) has banked more than 2.4 billion individual seeds representing a total of 40,020 different species of wild plants.

Described by scientists as ‘Noah’s Ark for plants’, the MSB is the world’s biggest wild seed storage facility, situated at the heart of Kew’s ‘living laboratory’ and wild botanic gardens, Wakehurst, in rural Sussex. Within the bomb- and flood-proof building are 98,567 seed collections sourced from 190 countries and territories, across all seven continents, nine biogeographic regions, and 36 biodiversity hotspots. In fact, the MSB holds the Guinness World Records title for world’s ‘largest seed bank’.

Dr Elinor Breman, Senior Research Leader at the Millennium Seed Bank, says: “Housed within the vaults of the Millennium Seed Bank is the world’s largest and most diverse collection of plants anywhere on the planet and that makes it an invaluable tool for scientists tackling the global biodiversity crisis. The path towards banking 40,000 individual species has been both challenging and rewarding and we are confident the coming years will prove just as fruitful. Conserving seeds at the MSB is not just about chasing numbers, it’s about increasing the genetic diversity of the collections and unlocking their potential to solve some of the biggest challenges we face today, from biodiversity loss to food security to climate change.”

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Posted On: 10/03/2023

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