Three years of seed collection

Three years of seed collection

Three years after the establishment of the Alpine Seed Conservation and Research Network, it is time to take stock of these three seasons of seed collection. All the partners made a total of 687 collections, representing 597 different species, most of them endemic, endangered or/and protected. The initial goal of 500 species is reached!

Among these almost 600 species, “only” 206 are new to Millenium Seed Bank, but the recollection of the 391 species already present in the seed bank is also important. Having several batches of the same species in seed bank increase, of course, the number of seeds stored but also brings more genetic diversity.

Although the majority of the collections were made individually, they have also been moments of exchange between partners, especially during the project film shooting in Switzerland when we collected several species together.

Here are two collected species:

Berardia lanuginosa (Lam.) Fiori, 1904 (syn. Berardia subacaulis Vill. 1779)

The woolly berardia was described in 1779 under the name of Berardia subacaulis by Dominique Villars, French doctor and botanist (born very close to the Conservatoire Botanique National Alpin!). It is an herbaceous plant, of ancient origin, considered as relict of the subtropical flora which populated the Alps at the beginning of their formation. Belonging to the Asteraceae family (as dandelion and daisy), it has a large yellow flower head on a very short stem, surrounded by large oval leaves covered by a white-grey tomentum. It grows in full sun in the calcareous or siliceous earthy screes, between 1800 and 2600m.

The particular shape of its seed, with a crown of hard bristles, allows it to sink gradually into the soil taking advantage of the mechanical action of compaction/decompaction of the substrate following the phases of wetting/drying. Once the seed has reached the depth of soil at which moisture is constant, this mechanical action is stopped. The seed no longer sinks and germinates.

Protected in France, it is a southwestern alpine endemic species with a very restricted area in Italy and France.

Berardia lanuginosa (Lam.) Fiori, 1904, pant and seed

Hieracium chaixianum Arv.-Touv. & Gaut., 1902.

The Chaix’s hawkweed is a species belonging to the Asteraceae family such as dandelions. This species has been described by Casimir Arvet-Touvet, a botanist from Grenoble, and Gaston Gautier. In the 1880s, Arvet-Touvet specialized himself in the study of hawks (a difficult genre if any!) and described many species.

The Chaix’s hawkweed is an endemic species of the Dauphiné (French region) moutains where it is known on the slopes of Mount Aurouze. This species is dedicated to Dominique Chaix, botanist and abbot from a village near Mount Aurouze.

Hieracium chaixianum Arv.-Touv. Et Gaut., 1902

Time of germination tests

It is now the season to test the viability of seeds collected this summer. For each species, the optimal germination protocol is applied if known. Otherwise, a range of conditions (temperature, light or dark, scarification…) is applied to find an optimal germination protocol.

Hierochloe odorata (L.) P. Beauv., 1812
Germination tests
A new season for Trifolium saxatile

A new season for Trifolium saxatile

Despite the significant snowfall this winter, the rocky clovers cultivated at the Lautaret pass have been cleared at the same time as last year.

Before the first snowfall in the autumn 2017, we protected clovers from the appetite of the voles with a fence. It worked well! Clovers are in good health and have already new leaves.

In the autumn 2017, we left in place for the winter clovers that didn’t sprout last season. Among them we observe many germination at the end of May 2018, just after the snowmelt.



Autumn 2017 : preparation of the winter season in the “research area” of the Lautaret Alpine Garden, under the vigilance of the Meije (3983m). Under the fence, clovers transplanted in individual pots after germination during 2017 season. Under the green veil: seeds that haven’t sprout during the 2017 season.



Following the 2nd meeting in Gap, some participants braved the rain (not yet snow) to discover the landscapes and vegetation from Gap region.

Visiting the silver mines in l’Argentière la Bessée allowed us to shelter but also to find some bryophytes to be determined. We enjoyed à dryer afternoon to visit the Juniperus thurifera forest.


Collecting field trip in Queyras

Collecting field trip in Queyras

The Queyras is an Eastern French mountain range at the Italian border.  A Regional Natural Park covers the massif and this area houses a few of rare species in the Alps or in France. Indeed, several Eastern species reach here their Western distribution limit (Tofieldia pusilla, Isatis alpina, Primula halleri…).

We spent three days in Queyras (September 7th, 11th and 12th): two days were necessary to collect, among other species, Primula halleri, Primula marginata, Artemisia glacialis, Saxifraga diapensioides and Isatis alpina. The third day was spent in monitoring a population of Tofieldia pusilla and collecting seeds. The Queyras Regional Park was involved in these activities.

Saxifraga diapensoides Foréant lake, collecting place of Isatis alpina
Collection of Isatis alpina



Spatiotemporal phenotypic diversity of symbiotic populations of Trifolium saxatile: arbuscular mycorhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Spatiotemporal phenotypic diversity of symbiotic populations of Trifolium saxatile: arbuscular mycorhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria

The aim of the Trifolium saxatile project is to examine the spatial and temporal response of the plant and its symbiotic partners (mycorrhiza and rhizobia) facing global change. The study is based on the resurrection approach: seeds of 90’s and 2016 were collected in three sites and cultivated under common conditions (in common garden and lab). We measure several traits on these plants like germination date, aerial and underground biomass, mycorrhization rate…

The lab experiment was set up in november and we are now recording the data on leaves and roots traits and quantifying the abundance of mycorrhizae into the plants’ rhizosphere. The roots of each individual have been colored, bringing out the chitin of the fungus cells. Then, a microscope observation allows us to estimate a percentage of colonization for each Trifolium plant. The observed fungus are endomycorizae, more precisely arbuscular mycorrhizae, belonging to the family of Glomeromycetes. Different parts of the fungus can be detected: extra-cellular hyphae, storage vesicles, spores and intra-cellular arbuscules. Arbuscules are a place of exchanges between plants and fungus (particularly carbon from plant to fungi, and in the opposite way nitrogen, phosphorus and water).

Nodules, root formations sheltering rhizobia, the bacterial symbiotic partner, are visible to the naked eye and also well apparent under the microscope. A part of the study is dedicated to this interaction too.

In a second step we plan to identify rhizobia and mycorrhiza species.

The two root symbiotic partners of Trifolium saxatile: arbuscular mycorrhizae (left) and nodule sheltering rhizobia (right).