The aim of the Ex situ Conservation Group is to promote and exchange information about orchid seed storage, micropropagation and the cultivation of orchids in living collections.
Long-term seed storage can act as a safety net for rare and threatened species, whilst not forgetting that species that remain common today often have the unfortunate tendancy of becoming rare in the future. Orchid seed banks can also be used as a source of material for production of plants for research purposes and for enhancing living collections. Living collections play a key role in conservation, both in terms of education and as a repository of rare and endangered plants.
All plants die at some stage and it is important that we maintain genetic diversity by continuing to raise orchids from seed both symbiotically and asymbiotically. In addition, the potential for seed-raised plants to be used in orchid reintroduction projects is being realised in an ever-increasing number of projects around the world. Using seeds to generate new plants will maintain some degree of genetic diversity and provide an opportunity to share material with other collections.
Research into storage techniques for both seeds and their associated fungi continue in several centres around the world, notably by members of OSSSU (Orchid Seed Science and Sustainable Use), a number of groups in Australia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC) is being established to carry out research on conservation of orchids of that continent, including banking of seeds. Although to date limited work has been carried out on orchid pollen storage, there is evidence that it may be possible to store pollen for several years and successfully use it for siring new seeds, if it is treated in a similar way as orchid seed i.e. it has been dried to a suitable moisture content and stored at -20° or -196°C.
The Ex situ Conservation Group wishes to encourage and support amateur/hobbyist growers as well as professional orchid biologists in botanical gardens and universities who wish to make a contribution to orchid conservation. Many amateurs, for example, hold important specialist collections of high quality (and sometimes rare) plants.