Skip to main content

Local Seeds Go into National Deep Freeze

A white flower

Photo credit Jeffrey Carstens

Chokeberry seeds plucked from the Forest Preserve Districtof Will County Kankakee Sands Preserve, in Custer Township, last year are now being stored in two national seed vaults. Seeds and leaf tissue, known as germplasm, also were taken from chokeberry plants at Starved Rock State Park, in La Salle County; the Iroquois County Conservation Area, in Iroquois County; and Rutland Township Bog, in Kane County. Seed collecting is part of national and international efforts to preserve genetic materials should there be natural or human-caused disasters that reduce the planet’s biodiversity.

The germplasm will be used for research projects and stored for safekeeping in the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, in Ames, Iowa, and the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Seeds grown from some of the Illinois samples may go to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in Norway, which offers safe, free and long-term storage of seed duplicates from all gene banks and nations participating in the global community’s joint effort to ensure the world’s future food supply.

Photo credit Jeffrey Carstens

Chokeberry, or aronia, seeds were chosen because the Ames facility needs more varieties of this plant, which has become a common alternative crop in agriculture, according to Jeffrey Carstens, a horticulturist from the Ames facility that led the seed collection foray to Illinois. Also, chokeberry fruit has a level of antioxidants higher than that of blueberries, and is a beneficial plant for home landscaping. “It provides early spring flowers for pollinators, along with nice foliage, followed by fruits providing food for birds, and then you get nice fall color,” says Carstens.