|Orcutt's spineflower (Chorizanthe orcuttiana)|
A major goal for the Rancho Santa Ana (RSA) seed bank is to maintain viable seed collections of the states rarest plants. Prior to this season, only one population of Orcutt’s spineflower had been collected and put into long term storage at RSA. In 2013, we are targeting this species for ex situ preservation and have accessioned two new seed collections representing previously uncollected populations into the RSA seedbank. The first collection came from Naval Base Point Loma, under a program administered by the Center for Plant Conservation which seeks to store seeds of endangered plants found on Department of Defense lands. The seeds arrived as most collections do, mixed with bits of stems, twigs, and other chaff. Seed program staff, volunteers and interns quickly set to meticulously removing anything that was not a viable seed. Twenty seeds were set aside to be germinated to assess the overall viability, and the rest were placed in our dryer tanks, to be prepared to freeze for long term storage.
|Orcutt's spineflower habitat|
With the seeds back in the lab, and a little more experience cleaning this species, we were able to quickly get the seeds cleaned and processed for storage. The next step was to germinate a small sample of seeds to test viability. Seeds of spineflowers are found within a fibrous involucre (with attached teeth or spines, hence the common name). We felt that the involucres would impede germination and increase the likelihood of mold contamination as we germinated the seeds. Under the dissecting scope, with fine tweezers and surgical scalpel in hand, intern Monica Rodriquez skillfully removed the fragile seeds from the involucres. The seeds were then sewn on clear agar plates. Within a week, every seed germinated, indicating that there is no dormancy in fresh seed and that the viability is 100%.
Creating a seed bank is one of many actions that will help protect Orcutt’s spineflower from the very real threat of extinction. This tiny plant is getting big help from Rancho Santa Ana and other plant conservation organizations.