Two seeds in palm of hand

You probably prepare for the future by saving money. Plant conservationists are also putting something in the bank: seeds.

Banking seeds literally means collecting, cleaning, drying, and storing them at low temperatures.

It’s a delicate, time-consuming process, but it’s a valuable investment. These seeds can be used to grow new plants if needed.

Albrecht: “It’s a way to really essentially back up species in case their populations go extinct in the wild.”

That’s Matthew Albrecht of the Missouri Botanical Garden. It’s one of 40 gardens and arboretums in the country banking seeds. Together, they’ve saved seeds from 800 species. It’s progress, but Albrecht says that’s only 30 percent of the North American species most at risk.

Albrecht: “There’s still a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring that our native flora doesn’t go extinct.”

Time is critical. Globally, one out of every five plant species is at risk of extinction as a result of human activities. Global warming is expected to make the problem worse, as many plants cannot adapt fast enough to survive.

So by saving seeds today, seed banks can help plants – and the animals that depend on them – survive a warmer tomorrow.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...