Pohutakawa seed capsules starting to open.

Image: DOC

Introduction

Along with efforts to manage the outbreak of myrtle rust, DOC is leading work to safeguard the long-term future of these taonga species by seed banking.

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DOC staff with pole pruner collecting seed

What are we collecting?

We are collecting seed from New Zealand’s native myrtles as part of a seed banking effort. New Zealand has 28 formerly described species or varieties in the myrtaceae family, with an additional 9 unnamed entities, all of which are endemic to NZ. All our native myrtles are now recognised as being threatened or at risk due to myrtle rust.

Why are we collecting the seed?

Seed is being collected from our native myrtles as an insurance policy. Seed banking is a good way of preserving the genetics of our myrtle species in the event of myrtle rust spreading throughout New Zealand and possibly causing extinctions. This is the largest targeted seed collection ever undertaken in New Zealand.

How and where is the seed stored?

The seed we collect is sent to the New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank (NZIFSB) located in Palmerston North, where they are assessed and prepared for long term storage. When the seed reaches the bank it is counted, sorted, sterilised and dried below 5% moisture content. Once this happens it is packaged up and frozen to -20 Degrees. 36 out of 37 of our native myrtles can be insured through seed banking in this way. Swamp maire (syzygium maire) is recalcitrant so can’t be stored in this way, so scientists are investigating alternative storage methods.

Where are collections taking place?

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DOC staff surveying northern rata.

Seed is being collected throughout New Zealand and its associated islands for banking.

A national framework of 49 sub-regions has been developed to maximise the genetic diversity of the seeds collected. Within each of these sub-regions, collections are required from one population of each myrtle species that is found there.

Seed banking collections largely take place on Public Conservation Land where permits for seed collection are automatically granted for this task.

Mana whenua must be informed of any seed collection happening on their rohe (land) before collections can take place.

Seed collection rounds to date

May-August 2017: this was the end of the season so we collected our late seeding species.

Jan-August 2018: this was our first full season of seed collection.

Jan-August 2019: this will be our second full season of seed collection.

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