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The Seed Zoo

cloverlawn

Photos: Richters.com
The company behind the SeedZoo for rare species offers a range of services, including replacing lawns with edible plants.

I recently learned that in addition to Norway’s Seed Vault, where 400,000-plus seeds are (we hope) safe from global warming and other disasters, there is also a seed bank that individuals around the world can contribute to.

It’s the SeedZoo at a company called Richters. And depending on the level of your concern about invasive species, you can buy unusual seeds there or contribute your own.

From the website: “Richters is proud to introduce SeedZoo™, a project to preserve traditional and indigenous food plants from around the world. Teaming up with botanical explorers and ethnobotanists, we are searching for rare and endangered food plants that home gardeners can grow and enjoy, and help to preserve.

“Of the 7,000 or so species of food plants known to man, only 140 are cultivated commercially, and of those, most of the world’s supply of food depends on just 12.

Even as the world increasingly speaks about food security, incredible varieties that are known only to a single tribe or in small and remote localities are being lost forever.

“We sent plant explorers across the world in search of rare beans, squashes, melons, greens, and grains. They have been to the jungles of Borneo, to small farms in Japan and Italy, and to the bustling food markets of Africa. In the coming months they will visit India, Vietnam and beyond. Many of the rare and exotic plants that they bring back don’t even have names and can only be called landraces — plants with unique features found in only one region or sometimes in just one village.

“Often our explorers can bring back only a handful of seeds, sometimes fewer than 100. Because these seeds are so rare and from such remote regions of the world, they are sold on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Once they sell out they may never be available again. …

“Join us in this grand project to preserve a part of the world’s food diversity. Try some of the planet’s treasures, and enjoy the culinary adventure. And please save some seeds and share them with your friends.”

Let me give you an example from the Richters website. How do you like the idea of the Kyrgyzstan Banane Melon?

Richters calls it a “gorgeous casaba type melon from southern Kyrgyzstan near the city of Osh. It is one of many local variations of melons found throughout central Asia. The yellow fruits have a creamy white flesh that is very sweet and delicious. It should be as easy to cultivate as other melons. Assume about 100-110 days to maturity. Will likely do best in warmer slightly drier areas. Fruit sweetness is enhanced when there is not too much water available. Fruits are picked when mature and deep yellow, and the stem begins to dry up. They are usually eaten fresh but the flesh is also dried as and used in the winter.”

I’m worried what Jean will say about this idea, but I’m pretty sure Jill will be up for it.

More here.

The Kyrgyzstan Banane Melon, with an admirer.

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Photo: BioCarbon Engineering
Drones can have a peaceful purpose. These are fighting climate change by “bombing” seeds into places that need trees. Trees are essential for decreasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Drones can have peaceful purposes. Some folks use them for photography or research on birds. Others have tapped drones to plant the trees our planet needs to reduce carbon dioxide and combat global warming.

Leo Shvedsky writes at Good, “Technology is the single greatest contributor to climate change but it may also soon be used to offset the damage we’ve done to our planet since the Industrial Age began.

“In September 2018, a project in Myanmar used drones to fire ‘seed missiles’ into remote areas of the country where trees were not growing. Less than a year later, thousands of those seed missiles have sprouted into 20-inch mangrove saplings that could literally be a case study in how technology can be used to innovate our way out of the climate change crisis.

“ ‘We now have a case confirmed of what species we can plant and in what conditions,’ Irina Fedorenko, co-founder of Biocarbon Engineering, told Fast Company. …

“According to Fedoranko, just two operators could send out a mini-fleet of seed missile planting drones that could plant 400,000 trees a day — a number that quite possibly could make massive headway in combating the effects of manmade climate change.

“The drones were designed by an ex-NASA engineer. And with a pressing need to reseed an area in Myanmar equal to the size of Rhode Island, the challenge is massive but suddenly within reach. Bremley Lyngdoh, founder and CEO of World Impact, says reseeding that area could theoretically house as many as 1 billion new trees. …

“For context, it took the Worldview Foundation 7 years to plant 6 million trees in Myanmar. Now, with the help of the drones, they hope to plant another 4 million before the end of 2019.

“Myanmar is a great case study for the project. In addition to the available land for the drone project, the nation has been particularly hit by the early effects of climate change in recent years. Rising sea levels are having a measurable impact on the population. In addition to their ability to clear CO2 from the atmosphere, healthy trees can also help solidify the soil, which can reduce the kind of soil erosion that has been affecting local populations in Myanmar.”

Adele Peters at Fast Company explains, “The drones first fly over an area to map it, collecting data about the topography and soil condition that can be combined with satellite data and analyzed to determine the best locations to plant each seed. Then the drone fires biodegradable pods — filled with a germinated seed and nutrients — into the ground. For the process to succeed in a mangrove forest, several conditions need to be right; if the tide comes in unexpectedly, for example, the seeds could wash away. In tests, Biocarbon Engineering has looked at which species and environmental conditions perform best.

“If drones do begin to replant entire forests, humans will still play a critical role. That’s in part because some seeds don’t fit inside the pods. But people living nearby also need a reason to leave the trees standing. ‘The project in Myanmar is all about community development and enabling people to care for trees, providing them with jobs, and making environmental restoration in a way that it’s profitable for people,’ says Fedorenko. ‘The forest didn’t vanish by itself—the forest was cut down by local people.’ ”

More at Good and Fast Company.

Hat tip: Maria Popova on Twitter.

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I wrote about the early stages of the Playscape at the Ripley School three years ago, here. The idea of the playscape was to incorporate nature activities into a playground. An open house was held last Sunday, and I saw lots of children, parents, and grandparents checking it out.

Perhaps because it was early in the season, perhaps because an open house seems to call for planned activities, it was hard to see if there were enough attractions available for exploring nature on quieter days. Of course, I grew up on the edge of an orchard, a forest, and a mountain, and no one told us kids how to have fun there. Anything less in nature play seems sparse.

One thing I liked was not really an interaction with nature except that you had to walk through a field to engage. It was the story walk for Lynne Cherry’s picture book on a groundhog who learns to make his own garden rather than help himself to other people’s. The laminated page spreads on posts around the field were charming and had lots of useful details about plants and seeds.

A gardening friend on my commuter train was very glad to hear the groundhog learned to grow his own food and leave hers alone.

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The Blackstone Parks Conservancy sent out this invitation, and we went.

“We invite you to attend the family event: Build your own Fairy House! This event was originally part of the summer series of family programs given by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy. Due to its rousing success, we are offering it again as part of Playful Providence, a citywide event organized by the Partnership for Providence Parks and the Providence Parks Department. Join us at the Field on River Road, across from the Narragansett Boat Club.”

Cardboard forms that you could fold into houses were on hand. On top you could apply a layer of something like sand-colored Play-Doh, with actual sand in it. Next you could choose from a gorgeous array of seedpods, acorns, leaves, twigs, and other fruits of nature — and stick them into the “mortar” — the way a fairy would like them — before the clay dried.

Our middle grandchild was a little young for it, but he liked running around in the park and watching the rowing lessons on the Seekonk nearby.

I would like to try fairy houses again someday soon. Just collecting the pieces of nature to be used would be fun for a child.

Read about the conservancy and future events here.

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A library seed program, described by Luke Runyon at National Public Radio,  reminds me of the sharing concept behind Heifer Project International (if you are given a chicken or a rabbit or a calf, you must give some of the offspring to another person in need).

“In a corner of the library, Stephanie Syson and her 4-year-old daughter, Gray, are just finishing a book with a white rabbit on the cover.

“When Gray approaches the knee-high shelves filled with seed packets, she zeroes in on a pack labeled ‘rainbow carrots.’

” ‘We just read two books with bunnies in them, so we’ve got bunnies on the brain,’ Syson says.

“Syson flips through a wicker bin labeled ‘carrots’ and offers other varieties to Gray, like ‘atomic red’ and ‘cosmic purple.’

“Here’s how it works: A library card gets you a packet of seeds. You then grow the fruits and vegetables, harvest the new seeds from the biggest and best, and return those seeds so the library can lend them out to others. …

“The library’s director, Barbara Milnor, says in the age of digital, downloadable books and magazines, the tangible seed packets are another way to draw people in.

” ‘You have to be fleet of foot if you’re going to stay relevant, and that’s what the big problem is with a lot of libraries, is relevancy,’ she says.

“Milnor says that while a library may seem like an odd location for a project like this, seeds and plants should be open to everyone. That makes a public library the perfect home for a seed collection.” More.

The sharing aspect is what stands out to me. Remember the post about Hebden Bridge in England and how people were planting in random bits of land and making the produce to free to anyone? Check that out, too.

4/7/13 Update: A similar effort in Concord, http://www.concordseedlendinglibrary.org.

Photograph: Dylan Johns
The seed library is a partnership between the Basalt Public Library and the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. Seed packets encourage gardeners to write their names and take credit for their harvested seeds.

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