Tasmanian Ent Moot? Rare unique conifers in Tasmania bear seed and the race is on to collect it

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It called ‘Masting’ and means that that a range of indigenous conifers have decided it’s time to bear seed. last time was five years ago in 2015.

How do they all decide that it’s the right time? An ENT Moot perhaps? (Tolkien readers will understand this reference). Likely it’s a range of subtle environmental triggers that the plants monitor so they can time their fruiting & seeding efforts for the best possible result.

Who said plants are not intelligent, just because they sit there?

In a recent post we covered seed banks and how they are really a Devils bargain in taking plant seeds out of context into a technological fantasy world.

This blog we look at seed collection going on this year on in Tasmania.

Tasmania – have you been there? I remember travelling over on the boat in the 90s and seeing the Mountainous cloud shrouded profile of Tasmania appear as we headed to Launceston. It’s certainly a special place.

Busy collecting this seed in a hurry is James Wood – Why?

The hurry comes from the coordinated timing of all of the plants to produce seed and that It happens irregularly.  They are also scattered over the alpine landscape in Tasmania so that means a lot of walking!

James Wood a botanist from Kew Gardens in London, works in the seed bank at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens in Hobart. Wood is on a mission to collect seed from these rare Tasmanian conifers.

Yes! Australia has its own conifers and in Tasmanina they are very special – Pencil Pines, King Billy Pines, Huon Pines. Tasmanian is Australia’s Conifer hot spot.

As I said the sense of urgency is from the irregular timing of seed production plus the real threat from global warming that is changing the climate in the alpine areas these plants grow in.

You may remember the fires within the last couple of years where alpine areas normally too wet to burn, dried out enough for this to happen.

Also, when you collect the seed it needs to be from a variety of different plants form different parts of the landscape to capture the genetic diversity. Pencil pines it turns out grow often in clonal groups. This means they are all of one genetic strain likely all grown from only a few parent trees.

“It’s not a bad-sized haul as an insurance policy for the future,” says Wood.

The collection will be stored in the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre and the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank. One day, the seeds may be reintroduced back into the landscape to flourish again which, for Wood, is a comforting thought.

Oh, OOH there those seed banks again – Why does reintroduction into the landscape again be only comforting thought? How about an urgent practicality?

Perhaps they could take a leaf (bad pun) from the book of the Sydney Botanic Garden and how they took action with discovery of the Wollemi Pine. Seed and plants were collected then there was an intense effort to propagate the trees so they could be grown by everyone.

This takes the pressure off the wild species from poachers and includes everyone into the conservation effort.

Wood says “As Tasmania’s habitat changes, many alpine species may become extinct — some have already been lost and may not be able to re-establish themselves naturally……. the increasing aridity and likelihood of fire in these areas is very worrying,” he says.

So, seed collection, propagation and storage plus growing on in the Botanical garden can here serve as a useful buffer. It just does not stop at the seed collection and storage part though.

“It will be nice if we can leave those who come after us with more than just a glimpse of what the world was in the beginning,” Wood says.

We would all agree with that

Based on an article from the ABC news site you can access here.