The tallgrass prairie is one of the earth’s most endangered habitats, having lost 96 percent of its land to agricultural and other human activities. To preserve the species found in the region, the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank (DNTPSB) is focused on increasing collections from species that are integral to the tallgrass prairie biome of the midwestern United States. This includes flora of the tallgrass prairie and connected ecosystems such as forests, plus species of importance to the conservation and restoration of the tallgrass prairie habitat.
The DNTPSB aims to bank a minimum of one representative sample of every species found in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem with seeds capable of surviving cold storage. We are also collecting multiple samples of more than 500 species selected for their importance for habitat restoration. Protocols for selecting these species can be found here. The goal is to collect seeds of each species from one population in each of the 12 ecoregions represented in the tallgrass prairie.
Seed collection is an efficient and cost-effective way to conserve the diversity of plant species into the future. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank is now available online via the Science Collections database. Here, interested parties may search more than 2,600 records for their research and education efforts. Approximately 250 accessions are added yearly, and each collection is processed and preserved for up to 200 years of storage. The seed information is merged with data from the Garden’s Nancy Poole Rich Herbarium and DNA Repository.
Each seed record displays an image, or series of images, of the preserved seed. Each image may be selected and magnified for close inspection. Seed data may also include notes on the location and date of collection, measurements, habitat type, number of seeds procured, and the percentage of viable seeds in the collection, along with other observations. Physical seed specimens are stored in the Garden’s Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center and in a remote location to ensure their protection.
The bank contributes to the Seeds of Success program, which serves to record, preserve, and safeguard important flora for restoration and conservation science activities within the United States.
Anyone interested in participating in collection or banking activities may contact the Seed Bank Manager, Dave Sollenberger. For other inquiries regarding the collection, please contact Pati Vitt, the Roger and Susan Stone Curator of the Seed Bank.