Native Plant Trust

Banking Seeds

Saving the Seeds of New England's Rare Plants

Conserving biodiversity for the future

Today, 17 percent of New England's native plant species are on the brink of being lost—and another 5 percent have already disappeared from the region. With threats to our native plants accelerating, seed banking is a critical strategy for ensuring the preservation of genetic diversity and for potentially reintroducing species to the wild. Our goal is to collect and preserve seeds from most populations of the 389 globally and regionally rare species in New England in accord with the goals of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

Native Plant Trust uses ex situ seed banking to help conserve the rare flora of New England. Ex situ seed banks are collections of seeds gathered sustainably in the wild (in situ) and stored under environmentally regulated conditions to maximize their longevity. The seed bank, an initiative of the New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP), has been receiving and storing seeds collected by Native Plant staff and member organizations since the late 1980s. As of 2024, the seed bank houses more than 200,000 seeds representing close to 500 unique plant taxa. These banked collections serve as a safeguard against the decline or extirpation of rare plants in situ, in which case we can withdraw seeds and propagate them to augment or reestablish the population.

To contribute seeds or discuss related questions, contact Dr. Jessamine Finch:

Read an article in the New York Times about how a Vermont botanist recently used our seed bank.

More about Our Seed Bank

Priorities, protocols, and how to contribute or request seeds

We give priority to banking the seeds of species that exist in only a few locations, are declining rapidly, or are not currently protected. We must obtain the appropriate state or federal permits and landowner permission to collect seeds. The strict guidelines for collecting ensure that we do not harm the reproductive potential of the population. We clean and dry the seed and store it in a freezer at -18°C. At regular intervals, we then test the viability of the stored seed and re-collect, if necessary. Our seed bank follows the best practices outlined by the Center for Plant Conservation.

Interested in contributing seed?

Join our Plant Conservation Volunteers to monitor rare species across the region and collect seed for the seed bank.

Contract seed storage

Under certain circumstances, organizations may contract with Native Plant Trust to process and store seeds on their behalf. To submit a request for consideration, please fill out the storage request form.

Requesting seeds for conservation and/or research

We consider requests for germplasm on a case-by-case basis. Professional researchers, tribal organizations, government agencies, and other institutions may be eligible to request germplasm. Individuals without an institutional affiliation may inquire if they are eligible for consideration. To submit a request for consideration, please fill out the germplasm request form.

Adlumia fungosa - Neela de Zoysa

Which Plants Come First?

We compiled Flora Conservanda, the list of plants in need of conservation in our region, to guide prioritization of plant taxa for seed collection.

Download Flora Conservanda
Nasami garden plant seedlings

Looking for the Northeast Seed Network?

The Northeast Seed Network focuses on increasing the availability of regionally appropriate, common native plants.

Learn about the Northeast Seed Network