BY ALLEGRA MOUNT, PUBLISHED IN THE PATAGONIA REGIONAL TIMES JUNE/JULY EDITION
The Old Main Elementary School’s cafeteria has been given new life as the Borderlands Restoration Seed Lab, the central hub of BRLI’s native seed conservation efforts. Spaces that used to hold tables and chairs now hold lab benches and seed cleaning equipment, and a dry-foods storage closet has been converted into a cooler for storing the seed collection, which is made up of over 600 individual collections of seeds of native species from wild lands across Southeast Arizona selected for their value in pollinator support, erosion control, and cultural enrichment (edible and medicinal plants).
Before moving to Old Main, the seed lab was housed in the small guest-house of a generous town resident, where bookshelves full of jars of seed lined the walls. All these seeds were collected from wild plants on public and private lands, and held within them adaptations to our unique and beautiful Sky Island mountain ranges, including the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains. Last year, our collectors brought in so many seeds the lab was literally bursting at the seams, and so a move to a larger space was in order.
The new space offers the opportunity for the seed lab to grow into an innovative seed cleaning, storage, and research facility. Current projects include an effort to bank seeds of priority species for restoration and conservation across the region, which is supported by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service; seed collection and storage for more than a dozen National Parks; ongoing studies on germination requirements for many native species; and evaluation of seed application methods for restoration (like seed balls).
There are many new developments in addition to the new lab. The seed lab is now selling retail wildflower and grass seed mixes to the public. For more information, visit this page. The lab is also welcoming new partnerships this summer with the Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute and the Smithsonian’s North American Orchid Conservation Center. Future course and training offerings from the seed lab can be seen on this page. To learn more about interning or volunteering at the seed lab, contact Allegra Mount at email@example.com.
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