Orchid Seed Bank Network a Success

Costa Rica Workshop


Orchid biotechnologists from 18 different countries participating in the Darwin Initiative project Orchid Seed Stores for Sustainable Use (OSSSU) gathered at the University of Costa Rica in September for a four day workshop to discuss their progress and exchange technical expertise.  The aim of the project has been not only to store seeds of species from a broad range of genera representing a wide range of habitats and growth forms around the world, but also to generate valuable data on a wide array of parameters across the family, including seed production and suitable germination media.

In these days of quick and easy electronic communication there is still no substitute for face to face meetings, and workshops provide a rare opportunity to discuss common problems and generate new ideas.  The first two OSSSU workshops were held in Chengdu, China for people working in Asia, and in Quito, Ecuador for partners in Latin America.  The Costa Rica workshop was the first occasion on which members from all participating countries plus newly joined 'associates' from Estonia, the Dominican republic, Estonia and Panama were able to meet.

OSSSU is a truly global network of orchid seed biotechnology facilities and, having completed the three year term of the Darwin grant, OSSSU is rapidly expanding as a global orchid facility, currently consisting of 31 partner institutions in 22 countries, plus the UK.  A key aim is to create a web site that acts as a virtual laboratory and a forum where partners can access the latest findings and share information on an increasing range of topics from how to germinate difficult species to seed size and morphology, with a focus on some of the world's most endangered species.

The Workshops

More than 40 people representing 21 institutions and 15 countries took part in two workshops, with representatives of the participating institutions reflecting a wide range of experience in the laboratory, horticulture and the field. Participants were able to exchange experience and expertise in orchid seed storage and germination techniques, to develop common protocols for seed harvesting, storage and germination, to set targets for numbers of species handled each year, and develop ways of sharing the data produced, and identify flagship species to promote the project. Participating institutions were also offered the use of the facilities of the Millennium Seed Band (MSB), at Wakehurst Place. The MSB offers the facility of safe duplication of seed samples to OSSSU partners under a separate agreement. Standardisation of procedures allows direct comparisons, thus participants agreed a set of common guidelines at the workshops. Good record keeping is likewise vital: tubes, packets and jars should all be labelled and dated, and details kept in a note-book and/or on a computer spreadsheet. The information obtained from the investigations will be recorded electronically to enable ease of data searching and sharing: species, photographs, provenance, date of harvest, date of receipt, percentage germination upon receipt, medium used to germinate the seed will be included.



orchid workshops



Chengdu Workshop

The first 5 day workshop took place in October, 2007 in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. China was chosen as one of the two hubs for the project both because of its large orchid flora (with more than 1300 species in its large territory) and because of its highly diverse temperate orchid flora. In addition to our hosts representing Sichuan Hengduan Mountains Biotechnology in co-operation with the Huanglong National Park Administration, participants arrived from the Botanical Garden of Indian Republic (BGIR), Bogor Botanic Garden and Purwadadi Botanical Garden, Indonesia; the Univesity of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB); Singapore Botanical Gardens; Mahidol University, Thailand and the Dalat Institute of Botany, Vietnam; as well as from Beijing Botanical Gardens, the Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Hainan University within China. You can imagine our delight when we were greeted by an enormous red banner proclaiming the event strung across the entrance the Sun Joy Hotel, our conference venue for the week. Our hosts, Holger and Wenqing Perner, told us that this was a normal occurrence in China, but for us it was very exotic, and rather wonderful. Would everyone arrive? We waited nervously in the hotel foyer as each of our guests appeared, and escorted them across the road for our first evening meal together.

Happily everyone had arrived by late evening, and we all appeared the following morning for the opening ceremony, which was attended by Mrs. Lucy Wang, officer of the State Forestry Administration, Beijing - the Chinese governmental agency for protection of plants and animals, and Mr Long from the Sichuan Forestry Department. Also present were members of the media, the event appearing on the front page of the Sichuan Economic Daily the next day, and being introduced on the Sichuan TV evening news. In addition to the discussions and individual presentations at the hotel venue, delegates were able to visit both Perner's laboratory, and his nursery in the outskirts of Chengdu. Here we were able to learn more about his propagation techniques, and particularly his considerable success in raising Cypripedium and Paphiopedilum species from seed. He was also able to offer a post-conference trip to Huanglong National Park to see some of the orchid habitats in the mountains of northern Sichuan for those of us fortunate enough to be able to remain in China for a few extra days.


Ecuador Workshop

The second workshop took place in November 2007 in Quito Botanical Gardens, where we were given a warm welcome by the garden's Director, Carolina Jijon. The Latin American contingent included articipants from BIOFAN, Universidad Autonoma Gabriel Rene Moreno (UAGRM) Bolivia; Universidad do Oeste (UNOESTE), Brazil; Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) and Jardín Botánico Nacional, Viña del Mar, Chile; Jardín Botánico de Cali, Colombia; Jardín Botánico Lankester, Costa Rica; Jardín Botánico Orquídeario Soroa, Cuba and Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, as well as from Universidad de Cuenca and Universidad Tenica Particular de Loja in Ecuador. We were a little concerned that, at 2700 meters above sea level, it might take participants a while to adjust to the altitude! We needn't have worried, our little grey cells still functioned adequately, although it was a few days before we were able to run up the stairs. The opening ceremony was attended by Patricia Galiano representing the Ministerio del Ambiente (the Ministry of the Environment). As far as possible the workshop was delivered in Spanish and English with participants aiding one another.

Located in Parque La Carolina in the centre of Quito, possibly the best preserved Spanish colonial city in the whole of South America, pretty Jardín Botánico de Quito is an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of a busy city. A relatively new garden, it is currently developing its laboratory facilities. The workshop was held in the new lecture theatre close by the stunning greenhouse, with its signature dome it houses a large display of orchids in bloom set in a natural setting along winding pathways amongst orchids. Behind the scenes both supporting the displays and functioning as a research collection extensive collection of Ecuadorian, with more Masdevallia in bloom than many of us had ever seen. Like many gardens around the globe, it is in demand for other events and during the workshop the greenhouse and surroundings were being used for the preliminary stages of for La Reina de Quito. Just in case the reader is beginning to think that orchid seed storage workshops are all work and no play, participants were able to meet some of the candidates for the contest during one of the breaks.



  china workshop