All posts by iufroseedwg


BGCI and our partners invite your valuable contribution to an online Seed Conservation Knowledge Hub!

Initial activities in 2017 are focused on building a directory of facilities, individuals, and expertise related to all aspects of seed conservation of wild plants. More details can be found at

Please complete the form at the link below – it only takes 7 minutes! The information you provide (apart from your contact information, unless specified) will be included in an online directory hosted by BGCI. You have until 30 September, 2017 to become part of this exciting new seed conservation tool.

Visit to access the form.

Thank you for supporting the development of a resource that will benefit the broader seed conservation community. If you have any questions or any trouble accessing the form, please email We apologize for cross posting.

Thank you!

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in partnership with the United States Forest Service, the Lyon Arboretum, and the National Tropical Botanical Garden

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It is with a heavy heart I must inform your members of Ben’s passing after a brief illness. He had recently moved to Pembroke to be closer to his wife Helen in the retirement home. Ben’s family was at his side and many colleagues paid a visit and had a brief chat with him during his brief stay in the hospital. A ceremony to lay his ashes will be held at the Petawawa Research Forest on July 26th in amongst some of the trees Ben germinated from seed. Of course some tree seed will be sown in his honour. Steve D’Eon, Canadian Forest Service.





logoI have attached a link to the above conference, which will be held between September 4-6, 2017 in Bålsta, Sweden. Please support our colleagues in IUFRO Working Party 2.09.01 “Seed Orchards”. 

The goal of this conference is to provide the opportunity to exchange scientific advances related to forest tree seed orchards and their integration in the forestry practice. These include links between seed orchards and long-term tree breeding; seed orchard design and management; forest pathology in relation to seed production, seed testing and storage; seed physiology and technology; forest economics; gene conservation; and interaction of seed orchards with related disciplines.

Important dates are:

31 May 2017 – Abstract submission;

23 June 2017 – Abstract acceptance;

30 June 2017 – Registration.


Farewell to Ben Wang

Ben WangIntroduction to ‘guest blog’ (by Shelagh McCartan)

In 2006, I was lucky enough to meet Ben Wang at the IUFRO conference in Fredericton, Canada. Ben has had a long, productive, and interesting career. At the age of 90, he has decided to ‘retire’! We wish him all the best in the future!

Guest Blog by Ben Wang (just retired)

Hello Friends

It has been 50 years since I started to work with tree seed at Petawawa Forest Experiment Station , Petawawa National Forestry Institute and Petawawa Research Forest as a research Officer, research scientist and emeritus research scientist. After 34 years of tree seed testing  and research with the National Tree Seed Centre, I retired in 1994 and continued with some consultancy, visiting scientist and volunteer work in tree seed.  I would  like to tell you friends that I had a very  interesting career in Tree seed for which I must express my  appreciation to Dr. Milan Simak of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who led and organized the IUFRO Tree Seed Group following the 1973 International Symposium in Bergan, Norway. It was Dr. Simak’s leadership that we had many years of fruitful  interesting tree seed work done internationally. In Canada, we were lucky to have the Tree Seed Working Group and  I am happy to see the Tree Seed Working Group’s News Bulletin are continued worldwide readership after 33 years.  I have a plea to our colleagues that there are more in-depth work required in seed science and technology for us to discover. Good luck and good- bye.




This year has whizzed by yet again – a blur of activity in a changing and sometimes challenging research landscape!

In our unit, I am concerned with the dwindling number of tree seed scientists world-wide. This year, we lost a core member, Marnie Light, who has taken up a research role in the palm oil industry. Marnie was our deputy co-ordinator for the past three years. On behalf of this unit, I would like to thank you for your enthusiasm, input and particularly web-master skills. We will miss you!

I also would like to remind everyone that this blog is the main means for communication in our IUFRO Unit 2.09.03. Please send me information on techniques, jobs and conferences, which I will upload as soon as possible. I am also looking for guest bloggers for 2017. I would like to publish one blog per month. So if you are interested, then please contact me for further details.

Wishing you all the very best over the Festive Season and for the New Year ahead!





Seed collecting in the British Virgin Islands

Introduction to ‘guest blog’ (by Shelagh McCartan)

Rosemary Newton is an ecologist with a seed background. She is based at RBG Kew, UK. In her blog, she discusses the prickly challenges of collecting seeds for conservation.

Guest Blog by Rosemary Newton ( Career Development Fellow (Islands) at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK)

One of the strategic outputs of the Science Strategy of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is to bank 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020.  Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) Partnership is working with partners in 80 countries to achieve this target.  One of these partners is the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI), based on Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in the Caribbean.  The Flora of the West Indies documents approximately 940 seed plant species (including non-native species) recorded from the four largest islands in BVI.  The vegetation on the islands comprises mainly tropical dry forest, dry scrub, mesic forest in the higher elevations, salt ponds in low-lying areas and mangrove swamps along the coast.  Since 2003, 112 seed collections of 82 plant species have been made by Kew and NPTVI staff from eight of the approximately 60 islands that comprise the BVI archipelago.

In June 2016, Kew’s United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs) team travelled to the British Virgin Islands to launch a Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) project, the aim of which is to assess and map TIPAs in the BVI to enable local authorities to prioritise their protection and conservation efforts.  Following the workshop which was held at the J.R. O’Neal Botanical Gardens, the UKOTs team and regional collaborators embarked on day trips to previously unexplored areas on the islands of Tortola, Beef Island, Virgin Gorda, Great Tobago and Prickly Pear in search of new, rare and threatened plants and also to map the occurrence of invasive plant species.  A new species for the MSB which we were able to collect seed from was the spiny legume Pictetia aculeata, endemic to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.


Tom Heller and Colin Clubbe collecting Pictetia aculeata seed on Beef Island

Many of the plant species on the islands possess spines or thorns, which makes moving through dense vegetation a painstakingly slow process!  One species of Cactaceae, Opuntia repens, made an unforgettable impression on the team as we made our way across the island of Great Tobago.  Commonly called the jumping cactus, this plant has perfected the art of vegetative reproduction, as segments readily break off from the plant when touched and the barbed spines attach securely to clothing and even the covered skin beneath.  We very quickly learned not to try to remove the segments with our bare hands but to carefully flick them away with a stout stick.  Although the primary mode of reproduction and dispersal in this species is vegetative, these plants produce very attractive flowers.


The jumping cactus, Opuntia repens, in flower on Great Tobago

An attractive native tree that we encountered and that is widespread across the region is Coccoloba uvifera of the Polygonaceae, locally known as the sea grape.  This dioecious plant is useful for coastal dune stabilisation as it is both wind resistant and salt tolerant.  It is also an attractive ornamental shrub, with the female plants producing large bunches of edible fruit that are purple when ripe and that are consumed raw, used to make jam or fermented to produce sea grape wine.  Unfortunately, we were unable to collect seeds from this species on this trip as the fruits were still green and so not yet ripe.  However, the MSB does have a couple of seed collections of this species conserved in the bank from other localities.



Coccoloba uvifera, commonly known as the sea grape, with unripe fruits

Fruits on the islands form an important part of the diet of indigenous iguanas.  On the limestone island of Anegada we met up with Kelly Bradley from Fort Worth Zoo, a conservation biologist studying the Critically Endangered Anegada iguana (Cyclura pinguis).  This species was reduced to a population of fewer than 300 individuals due to pressures from feral domestic animals, in particular cats, which kill hatchlings and juveniles for food.  In 1997 a headstart facility was built to enable conservationists to rear hatchlings in captivity.  This facility has been successfully rearing animals until they are large enough to survive alongside cats and can be released back into the wild.  Whether the passage of seeds within fruits through the iguana’s gut facilitates seed dispersal and promotes germination or is detrimental to seed viability is still largely unknown.  As the iguanas’ range became restricted to Anegada during the last deglaciation, the role of the iguana in recruitment of fruit-bearing plants is being investigated by Kelly and Kew staff member, Martin Hamilton, with NPTVI colleagues.


A juvenile Anegada iguana at the headstart facility

As a relatively new member of the UKOTs team, this field trip was a memorable introduction to the unique flora of BVI and the challenges facing plant conservation in the region.  On this trip we were able to collect seed from plant species on Prickly Pear and Beef Island, two new localities for the MSB.  In total, 12 collections of eight species new to the MSB were accessioned.


Thanks to Dr Martin Hamilton for organising the logistics, Kelly Bradley for showing us the Anegada iguana headstart facility, and Kew, NPTVI and Puerto Rico colleagues for sharing their knowledge and expertise of the local flora.  The BVI TIPAs project is funded by HSBC through the 150th Anniversary Fund and the seed collecting work is funded by the Garfield-Weston Foundation through the Global Tree Seed Bank Project.  Regional collaborations and capacity building for NPTVI staff are being made possible through the Darwin Plus funded project [DPLUS030]Building systems and capacity to monitor and conserve BVI’s flora”.


Conferences – too few and too far?

The ISSS conference in China is less than three weeks away! Are you registered? If not, when last did you attend a seed science conference? Which factors do you consider critical when signing up for a conference?

Please take our short poll above so that we can get some feedback from you on whether there is sufficient demand and interest for a seed science conference early to mid 2015.

Thanks for you participation!







This blog replaces the electronic newsletter. It is your forum for posting newsworthy items including information about conferences, workshops and jobs etc. Please send the items to us and we will upload them as soon as possible. We also hope to include opinion pieces on topics by invited researchers. In the meantime, please bear with us as we are amateur web-masters!