Tag Archives: Millennium Seed Bank

Almacenamiento de semillas de Brosimum alicastrum (Ojushte, Rámon, Capomo)

Frutos fresco de Brosimum alicastrum

Como parte de un proyecto financiado por la Iniciativa Darwin (18-010) para apoyar la recolección sostenible de Brosimum alicastrum tuvimos la suerte de trabajar con un equipo del Millennium Seed Bank de RBG Kew.  Anaïte López del Instituto Nacional de Bosques de Guatemala pasó un mes en el banco de semillas trabajando con Tim Marks, Wolfgang Stuppy y Louise Colville bajo la dirección de Hugh Pritchard, el jefe de investigación de semillas. Brosimum alicastrum es difícil de almacenar y esto ha impactado sobre su uso en reforestation en América Central. El equipo del banco de semillas emprendió una serie de experimentos para identificar las condiciones óptimas para el almacenamiento. La investigación involucró a varias conclusiones nuevas y emocionantes que estamos en proceso de publicar. Afortunadamente también identificó las condiciones que soportan almacenamiento de hasta un año.

Las condiciones óptimas de almacenamiento consisten en el mantenimiento de la semilla a 15 ° C y un límite superior de humedad del 75% RH. Sorprendentemente humedad puede ser mucho más baja sin afectar a la viabilidad de la semilla. El almacenamiento a 15 ° C impide la germinación y el daño que ocurre frío abajo de los 10 ° C, donde la posterior fuga de electrolitos anima a daños por hongos durante la fase de germinación.

Sección a través de una semilla de Brosimum alicastrum fresco realizado por Wolfgang Stuppy del Millennium Seed Bank, Kew


Seed storage protocol for Brosimum alicastrum (Ojushte, Rámon, Breadnut, Maya Nut)


As part of  Darwin Initiative grant (18-010) to support the sustainable harvesting of Brosimum alicastrum we were very fortunate in working with a team from the Millennium Seed Bank of RBG Kew. Anaíte López from the Instituto Nacional de Bosques in Guatemala spent one month at the Seed Bank working with Tim Marks, Wolfgang Stuppy and Louise Colville under the guidance of Hugh Pritchard, the head of seed research. Brosimum alicastrum is difficult to store and this has had an affect on its use in reforestation in Central America. The team at the Seed Bank undertook a range of experiments to identify the optimal conditions for storage. The research involved several new and exciting findings which we are in the process of publishing. Fortunately it also identified conditions which support storage for up to a year.

Optimal storage conditions consist of maintaining seed at 15°C and upper limit of humidity of 75% RH. Surprisingly humidity can be much lower without impacting on seed viability. Storage at 15°C  prevents most of the in-storage germination seen at higher temperatures, and the chill damage occurring at 10°C or below, where subsequent electrolyte leakage encourages fungal damage during germination phase.

Section through fresh Brosimum alicastrum seed undertaken by Wolfgang Stuppy of the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew


Collecting nettle seeds, no easy task!

Collecting Pilea cellulosa fruit on the border with Haiti whilst trying to avoid 300 escaped prisoners. Collecting the fruiting bodies is relatively straight forward but recognising and extracting mature fruit is not.

For a week now I have been accompanying a team from the Jardín Botánico Nacional and Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank on a field trip to collect seed of plants endemic to Hispaniola for banking at the Jardín Botánico and Kew. I have been taking advantage of this trip to collect nettles but also to learn how to harvest and bank their seeds. The Greater Antilles which includes the Dominica Republic  / Hispaniola is a centre for species diversity for nettles and most of the 100 or so species found here are found nowhere else. Given obvious pressure on the island’s forests both in the Dominican Republic as well as in Haiti, banking their seeds could support their reintroduction as a last ditch attempt to prevent their extinction.

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Fruiting Pilea microphylla. For scale the leaves are 3 mm in length. Ripe fuits are brown in colour, immature flowers and fruit pale cream to pale-green.

The seed bank at Kew which banks the seeds of >50,000 species currently has only 14 sp of nettle which for me seemed a little on the low side given that there are about 2,000 species Worldwide. Support from the Bentham Moxon Trust is helping me to increase this figure significantly, both by enabling me to help develop seed-collecting protocols for nettles and so encourage seed banks to collect them, but also because I am learning from them how to collect seeds, something that I can do myself on future fieldwork in collaboration with other seed banks. Continue reading Collecting nettle seeds, no easy task!

Collecting nettles in the Dominican Republic

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One of very few collections of Rousselia humilis, a rare and unusual species that we found on the very first day! Click on the link to see a brief description.

I have just spent an amazing week with a team from the Jardín Botánico Nacional Dr. Rafael M. Moscoso and Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank collecting nettles in the Dominican Republic, thanks to funds from the Bentham Moxon Trust. The Dominican Republic represents half of the island of Hispaniola, the other half being Haiti. Thanks to a rich geological history, varied climate and very high mountains (to 2,760 m) the country is host to a very rich and diverse flora of over 5,500 species, many of which are only found on Hispaniola. We made some very interesting collections, the first two on the first day! One was of a genus, Rousselia that I have never before seen alive and of which few collections exist in herbaria, and which by coincidence I posted about a couple of months ago. The other was of a very unusual tuberous species of Pilea, a genus of ca 715 species of mainly succulent herbs, over 70 of which are found only on the island of Hispaniola.

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An unusual tuberous species of Pilea growing in cracks in limestone karst cliffs on Sierra San Francisco in the Province of San Juan, Dominican Republic. These tubers probably serve to store water during dry periods.

Continue reading Collecting nettles in the Dominican Republic

Useful Plants Project workshop: rural livelihoods conserve plants

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Delegates at the Useful Plants Project workshop held at the Millennium Seed Bank from July 22-24. Image courtesy of Wolfgang Stuppy and the Millennium Seed Bank.

Last week the Millennium Seed Bank hosted a week-long workshop on useful plants and livelihoods as part of the evaluation of one of it’s flagship initiatives, the Useful Plants Project. The event was also an opportunity to take a broader look at Kew’s livelihoods projects and how we could maximise the way in which they meet rural communities’s needs and thereby increase their impact. The breadth and scope of Kew’s projects never ceases to amaze me: from the Great Green Wall project in subSaharan Africa to the restoration and conservation of dry forests in Peru, the conservation of forest reserves in Madagascar and of course the Useful Plants Project (UPP) itself; an ambitious and innovative initiative that seeks to link rural communities, livelihoods, restoration and the ex-situ conservation of seeds in Mali, Botswana, Mexico, Kenya and South Africa. Continue reading Useful Plants Project workshop: rural livelihoods conserve plants

Two exciting seminars on Maya Nut tree at Kew

Participants on one of many Maya Nut capacity building courses funded by the Darwin Initiative. This one was at Versailles, Chichigalpa, in Nicaragua. Image: Erika Vohman, Maya Nut Institute

On the 24th and 25th of April Erika Vohman (CEO of the Maya Nut Institute) and Mike Rowley a grad student at the University of Bournemouth gave two great talks at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and its subsidiary, the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in Sussex. Erika spoke about our Darwin Initiative project with the tropical tree Brosimum alicastrum or Maya Nut which finished last month within the context of focusing sustainable development projects in Central America on women and markets.

The slide above shows the role of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) and livelihoods in the sustainable use and conservation of forests in Central America. Our project invested in workshops and the generation of knowledge to support its sustainable use.

Continue reading Two exciting seminars on Maya Nut tree at Kew

Seminar Announcement: Livelihood and conservation value of Maya Nut in Central America

The Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst Place, Sussez
The Seminar will be held in the Millennium Seed Bank Seminar Room. Directions to the Seed Bank can be found here: http://www.kew.org/visit-wakehurst/plan/getting-here

On April 25 2014, at 11 am in the Millennium Seed Bank Seminar Room Wakehurst Place,  Erika Vohman of the Maya Nut Institute will give a seminar entitled ‘Livelihood and conservation value of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) in Central America’, Erika Vohman. Erika has been working with Brosimum alicastrum for over a decade and is founder of the US NGO, the May Nut Institute whose mission is to find a balance between people, food and forests by teaching rural communities about the value of Maya Nut for food, fodder, ecosystem services and income. Directions to the Seed Bank can be found by clicking on this link.

Brosimum alicastrum fruits, known as Maya Nuts in the US

Brosimum alicastrum is one of the most widespread and common species in evergreen and semi-evergreen tropical forests in Mexico and northern Central America. It is recognized as a famine food, fodder crop, timber and fuelwood. Also as a key species for reforestation in Central America. Examples of ongoing reforestation include the ‘Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests’ program in Guatemala and Nicaragua (150,000 trees respectively), the ‘Programa Reverdecer’ (Re-greening) in Guatemala (50,000 trees) and the Ecological Ranching Program in Guatemala (300,000 trees) and Restoration of Lake Peten-Itza Watershed (600 ha of trees planted).

In Honduras Maya Nut harvest can generate $650 per ha per annum compared to $326 for a combined maize and beans production system. Erika has been working with Alex Monro (The Natural History Museum / RBG Kew) on a Darwin Initiative funded project ‘Tools for the sustainable harvesting of Maya Nut (Mesoamerica) 18-010’ which finished in March 2014. Erika will talk about her work and in particular her strategy for market-driven community based conservation, improving women’s participation in conservation and Maya Nut restoration and reforestation in the Neotropics. Erika’s talk should last for 30-45 minutes.

Continue reading Seminar Announcement: Livelihood and conservation value of Maya Nut in Central America

Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)

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A ripe Maya Nut fruit, the sweet fleshy green outer layer of the fruit is consumed by bats, birds and monkeys leaving the intact seed to fall to the forest floor.

Our recent findings have lead us to develop a protocol which enables the storage of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) seed for several months. As part of this we asked Wolfgang Stuppy from the Millennium Seed Bank to have a look at the anatomy of the fruit and seed to see whether we could get any insights into why it behaves as it does. As part of this work he came across some very interesting facts about the fruit and seed. Continue reading Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)

Maya Nut: developing a storage protocol for a Central American famine food

Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) freshly harvested and roasted. Freshly harvested seeds as they are collected from the forest floor (pale brown, foreground) and after they have been roasted prior to being ground into a flour

Our recent findings have lead us to develop a protocol which enables the storage of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) seed for several months. Since September 2012 Anaité López (Instituto Nacional de Bosques, Guatemala), Tim Marks (Millennium Seed Bank) and Wolfgang Stuppy (The Millennium Seed Bank) have been working at the Millennium Seed Bank to develop a long-term storage protocol for the seed of the Maya Nut tree (Brosimum alicastrum). Maya Nut is a significant famine food for the rural poor in northern Central America but at the moment it is not possible to store the seed for more than a couple of weeks. Previous posts have highlighted the observation that this seed does not survive for long in the wild and this has been believed to be a consequence of the seed’s very thin papery coat which leaves it vulnerable to desiccation and fungal attack .  Continue reading Maya Nut: developing a storage protocol for a Central American famine food