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Conservation seed orchards

In addition to formal plant translocations, Parks and Wildlife has established a number of 'conservation seed orchards' (also known as 'field genebanks') to assist in the conservation of critically threatened plant species.

Conservation seed orchards are sites where threatened species have been established, often outside their known range, with the aim of providing material for translocation and restoration and as a safeguard against extinction in the wild. Species that are high priority for planting in the seed orchards are those that are highly threatened in the wild or do not readily produce seeds.

Plants grown from seed collected from the seed orchards can be returned to the original in situ site to augment wild populations, once the original threats have been controlled. Using seeds from a conservation seed orchard takes pressure off wild populations. Conservation seed orchards also provide sites for research projects that aim to gain a greater understanding of the targeted species. These findings are incorporated into supporting conservation and management of wild populations.

These conservation seed orchards are subject to intensive management which may include fertilisation, watering and protection from grazing animals, in addition to monitoring of growth and survival and collection of propagation material.

Some of the species that have been incorporated into these plantings include:

  • Feather-leaved banksia (Banksia brownii)
  • Stirling Range banksia (Banksia montana)
  • Cactus dryandra (Banksia anatona)
  • Fairall's honeysuckle (Lambertia fairallii)
  • Prickly honeysuckle (Lambertia echinata subspecies echinata).

These highly endangered species are found in Phytophthora dieback infested areas such as the Stirling Range National Park. Because their natural populations are heavily infested with the disease, it is not wise to reintroduce plants to their former home until the disease can be controlled. Instead, these conservation seed orchards are providing a safe haven from disease and helping to ensure the ongoing survival of some of Western Australia's unique flora.

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Anne Cochrane & Leonie Monks