Seed Secrets Revealed: Exploring the fascinating life of a Seed Centre volunteer

Lilli Vitagliano

In the latest instalment of the Botanic Youth Series for SA Youth Week 2023, volunteer Lilli goes behind the scenes at the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre to find out more about the young people who graciously give their time to assist with the protection of our threatened state flora.

Seed Secrets Revealed: Exploring the fascinating life of a Seed Centre volunteer
SA Seed Conservation Centre volunteer Alex in the seed lab.

Bushfires and floods can be devastating for many members of our delicate ecosystems, but what happens to threatened plant species when they're impacted by the natural events?

What becomes of the destroyed symbiotic associations between these plant species and their environment?

Capturing the diversity of South Australia's invaluable threatened flora lies within our very own South Australia Seed Conservation Centre.

Collecting and storing these threatened seeds, with a goal of reintroducing them back into the environment is not an easy task and requires a considerable amount of expertise and dedication.

With so much to learn, I had to visit and see all which goes on for myself!

Seed Secrets Revealed: Exploring the fascinating life of a Seed Centre volunteer
Alex explained the detailed intricacies of a seed under the microscope.

Demonstrating the incredible (and somewhat arduous) stages of the seed conservation process was volunteer 'Seedy' and, in his own words, "plant nerd enthusiast" Alex.

I was taken on an extensive tour of the Seed Conservation Centre, where I quickly learned that as a volunteer, Alex plays a critical role in being able to provide his own knowledge and expertise to the wider research team.

With a diploma in conservation and ecosystem management, Alex is determined to conserve South Australia's threatened plant life from reaching extinction and wishes to sow a future where "plants are appreciated and respected".

For Alex, the seed conservation process is extremely rewarding as "looking inside the seeds is always a mystery", with an endless variety of seeds to analyse.

I couldn't agree more!

Seed Secrets Revealed: Exploring the fascinating life of a Seed Centre volunteer
Each seed set is delicately stored and labelled as part of SA Seed Conservation Centre research.

Did you know that even seeds need x-rays?

Alex explained that he's used an x-ray to identify if the innards of the seed are alive and strong, thus viable to proceed with testing and germination.

However, splitting the seed in half and observing it underneath a microscope is another alternative to researching its viability.

The intricate details of a magnified seed are both amazing and perplexing!

I hope to visit the centre again to uncover more wonderful seed mysteries.

The care and active involvement to save threatened plants in South Australia is a dedicated science with several variables to consider.

Therefore, we are most grateful to have a volunteer as devoted and passionate as Alex, assisting with our seed conservation research!

Interested in volunteering with the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium?

Find out more about our wide variety of volunteering opportunities here.

All photos and written content has been provided to the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium by Lilli Vitagliano as part of the Botanic Youth Series to celebrate young people's contributions to the gardens for SA Youth Week 2023.

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