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Australian native seeds: a digital image library

Seed collecting requires many hours of field work to plan, travel to, locate and collect seeds from target species. But the behind-the-scenes work that goes into successfully banking these seeds can take just as long as the trip preparation!

The imaging microscope at ANBG’s National Seed Bank has been used to catalogue thousands of seeds so far as part of the Australian native seeds: a digital image library project funded by the Australian Government’s Bush Blitz Program (Brook Clinton, ANBG).

When seeds arrive at a seed bank, they are cleaned, undergo germination testing and are prepared for long-term storage. These stored seeds must be of a high quality so that they can play a role in future research and conservation efforts. Seeds may also be used in restoration efforts, to establish a new population or increase genetic diversity in an existing one.

The beautiful seed of Pimelea trichostachya (Brook Clinton, ANBG).

Another important aspect of this process is the digital imaging of seeds, which provides information about seed traits. The Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research at CSIRO is working towards imaging seed from 1000 species of Australian plants by June 2017. This involves many hours dedicated to looking down a microscope!

This Australian native seeds: a digital image library project is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Australian Biological Resources Study Bush Blitz Program. Seed stored at the National Seed Bank at the Australian National Botanic Gardens is being used to complete this work. Most of these species have never been imaged previously, so this work in unlocking the secrets and beauty of Australia’s seeds may prove invaluable to future research in ecology, taxonomy, restoration and even biomimicry.

The Seed Trait Workshop, organised collaboratively by some of our partner institutions, was held in October 2016 in Perth. It explored the importance of better understanding seed traits for addressing research questions in seed science going into the future (read more about the workshop here). The information that is uncovered through the Australian native seeds: a digital image library project will hopefully assist in realising these international research goals.


The colour, shape, texture and size of Allocasuarina zephyrea (left) and Epacris paludosa (right) vary significantly. Seed form is highly diverse and depends on the species' mode of seed dispersal (Brook Clinton, ANBG).