What is SEEDS?
SEEDS is project that aims to save threatened South Australian plants from extinction.
It’s also about engaging and educating young people in this process, and empowering them to take action as environmental custodians. They are involved in authentic and effective science with real, tangible results.
South Australia has over 3,500 species of native plants with a number of species endemic to the state. Around 1 in 4 species is listed as threatened under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.
There are seven schools participating in the SEEDS project with around 250 students and teachers involved.
They are currently helping to conserve 20 species of threatened plants.
The SEEDS program started in 2014 through a partnership between the Department for Education and the SA Seed Conservation Centre, which is part of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia.
How does SEEDS work?
Scientists from the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre provide schools with the seed of a threatened plant species that occurs within the school’s regional area. They then provide information about the plant’s biology and demonstrate to students and teachers how to germinate and propagate their selected plant species.
The schools repeat this process at their school, allowing for two seed orchards: one at the Adelaide Botanic Garden nursery and one at their school.
Students then grow the seedlings and plant them in their school. With support from local scientists, students will also re-introduce their threatened species to a local conservation site helping to conserve them in the natural habitat.
Later they’ll collect seeds from the plants they have grown and will be shown how to clean the seeds and prepare them for storage, with a view to teaching the following year’s group how to repeat the process.
Effectively the students and school will become environmental custodians of an endangered species, helping to maintain a living source of the threatened plant in an ongoing basis.
What seeds are being grown through SEEDS?
Marden Senior College are growing the threatened Behr’s Swainson-pea (Swainsona behriana) and Hairy-heads (Ptilotus erubescens) for re-introduction at a conservation site near Kapunda. They are also collecting seeds for preserving at the SA Seed Bank.
Kildare College students have propagated Small Scurf-pea (Cullen parvum) and are looking to reintroduce seedlings into an SA Water property at Hope Valley. Over the past 3 years, the students have been learning specialised laboratory techniques to propagate native orchids along with their host fungus. These include:
- The nationally endangered White beauty spider-orchid (Caladenia venusta)
- State listed endangered Caladenia argocalla (White Beauty Orchid, several hundred successfully grown)
- State listed rare Caladenia reticulata
- Caladenia tentaculata (several hundred successfully grown)
- Caladenia glossodia major
Due to COVID restrictions they are now continuing propagation at their school with teacher Paul Beltrami.
Kimba Area School are propagating Common Sour-bush (Choretrum glomeratum) for reintroduction into Secret Rocks Nature Reserve in the Eyre Peninsula. They have also germinated some Chalky Wattle (Acacia cretacea) seeds and reintroduced them to Secret Rocks.
Wilderness School have been using geo-mapping techniques to search for the critically endangered Woods Well Spyridium (Spyridium fontis-woodii). They are calling the project - 'Custodians of Crawford - the Crawford Arboretum'. They have over 50 plants under cultivation and they planted another 500 seeds in June 2020. Just 11 plants of this species are known from a single roadside population near the school’s Environment Centre in the Coorong. The school has succeeded in developing five exclusion zones at a re-introduction site in the Coorong, in collaboration with Adelaide University. They have also been working to conserve Scaly Bush-everlasting (Ozothamnus pholidotus) and Large-fruit Groundsel (Senecio macrocarpus).
Wiltja Aboriginal School, in collaboration with Woodville High School, have collected and germinated two generations of six species. Some plants have been returned to protected sites on the APY Lands. The plants include Wrinkled Honey-myrtle (Melaleuca fulgens ssp. corrugata), Rusty Spyridium (Spyridium tricolor), Centralian Minniritchi Mallee (Eucalyptus minniritchi), Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana), Prostanthera wilkieana and the Common Chocolate-lily
Urrbrae Agricultural High School have successfully propagated Variable Glycine (Glycine tabacina) and returned 2,000 seeds to the SA Seed Bank. They are propagating Creeping Mint (Mentha satureioides) and a reintroduction site has been identified near Kanmantoo. The school is looking at becoming custodians of more species in 2020.
Investigator College ELC-12 Anglican School have germinated, propagated and reintroduced the Yellow-anther Flax-lily (Dianella longifolia var. grandis) into conservation sites. Students have pricked out Lemon Beauty-heads (Calocephalus citreus) seedlings and planted them in our seed orchard. Other species growing in the seed orchard are Olearia pannosa (40 plants) and Olearia passerindoides. Students expect to be collecting seed from these later this year.