Seed banking is a valuable conservation tool that enables the long-term storage of genetic diversity of a large number of plant species. It involves collecting, cleaning, drying, recording, and storing seeds at low temperatures for future conservation and restoration uses.

To supplement its on-site plant conservation locally and globally, the Garden in 2013 established a Seed Bank at the Shaw Nature Reserve. The seed bank holds over 2,400 dormant seed accessions of more than a thousand different species, many of which are globally rare or threatened with extinction. Some of these seeds were collected by Garden horticulturists and researchers on visits to Japan, China, and the Republic of Georgia. Additionally, we have collections from over 25% of Missouri’s 2,000+ native plants stored in the Seed Bank, including 64 Species of Conservation Concern.

For a behind the scenes tour of the Seed Bank, check out this video. You can search our collections at To request seeds for professional use, fill out a Plant Material Request Form.


Seed Banking: Step by Step


Staff aims to collect no more than 20% of the seed available in a plant population to avoid impacting it negatively by collecting too much. They also record important data that include a detailed description, photographs, location, phenology, and habitat.


In addition to keeping seeds dry in breathable containers during the collection process, the staff later places collections in desiccation chambers to fully dry the seed before storage.


The cleaning method will depend on the species. Different sizes and shapes call for different approaches to separate the seed from the rest of the plant material collected.
It can range from using perforated trays and vibrating paper to grating against rubber.

Testing viability

Assessing a seed’s baseline viability will provide valuable information for future propagation, such as breaking dormancy and best environmental conditions for growth. The most straightforward method is a germination trial, which can take months, simulating the seed’s original environment conditions.


Once the seed has been dried, it is stored in freezers in four-ply foil bags, where they will stay for as little as a few decades to hundreds of years.