February 2021

The Millennium Seed Bank (MSB), Kew Gardens has recently celebrated its 20th Year.

Work that BCF sponsored has resulted in:

  • Seed-banking of 1950 collections from Madagascar (923) Malawi (429) Mali (318) Burkina Faso (273), representing 1,103 unique species.
  • The collections covered 156 families, of which the biggest were Fabaceae (legumes, 271 collections) and Asteraceae (the sunflower family, 183 collections).

The MSB holds seeds for conservation and to facilitate research contributing to some of the greatest challenges facing humanity today around climate change, loss of biodiversity, food security and human health and nutrition.  Of the seed collections BCF supported, 217 samples of 142 species have been distributed internationally for use by scientists and horticulturalists for research, conservation, education and horticulture.

Many of the collections that BCF supported are of endangered species.  These include the Madagascan tree Eligmocarpus Cynometroides (Fabaceae), which is down to around 20 adults left in the wild and has been classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  Local communities were unaware of its rarity and the population had been declining over many years due to felling for timber and charcoal production.  The species is on the brink of extinction, but seeds are now conserved at the MSB and nursery grown seedlings are being planted to enrich the conserved forest.

A new tree species from the Central Highlands of Madagascar, Xerochlamys itremoensis, was undescribed when collected for the MSB as part of the collection BCF supported.  The species has now been formally named and classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  It is only found on the Itremo Massif and contributed to Kew’s justification for establishing the 273km2 Itremo Massif Protected Area, which has been officially designated as protected by the Government of Madagascar and is managed through a collaboration of Kew’s local team of Malagasy botanists and local communities.

Many of the MSB collections from Madagascar are now being grown in the Tropical Nursery at Kew for research and conservation purposes.