What does the OSP do? Do you "bank" seed for later?
The Orchid Seedbank Project is a conservation organization. Although we do store seed, we do not intend on storing it for purposes of generating large numbers of plants at some future
point in time; it is not a "seed bank" in the sense that we are routinely cryogenically freezing seed, or carrying out some other hopelessly long-term storage regimes. Instead, the OSP
serves as a clearinghouse for orchid seed; until the OSP was formed in December of 1996, there was no central clearinghouse by which conservationists, researchers, commercial and hobbyist growers
could go to specifically for orchid seed.
How do you get your seed?
We receive our seed from many donors. Sometimes we receive only one species from a given donor, sometimes we get tens of species in a single shipment.
What does the donor get out of it?
Donors receive credit for their donation; right now, this stands at 4:1, meaning that if we can make, say, four outgoing packets from the incoming seed, the donor gets one free packet.
These credits may be redeemed at any time, and the OSP pays the shipping. We place no restrictions, other than those we place on those that pay for their seed, upon the seed that the donors request.
Doesn't this tend to deplete the stocks of "good" seed?
No. Although demand sometimes surpasses supply, orchids are remarkably prodigious producers of seed, and our donors tend to be very generous with the seed they send. As a result, there is
often more than enough seed to go around. Seed is supplied on a first-come, first-serve basis: our donors and those that purchase seed are placed on equal footing with respect to orders, unless
they have specifically requested seed (such as on the "Wanted" list). The only exception is that specific conservation agencies receive slightly higher priority; all the same, it is
rather rare that seed is subject to such exceptions.
How does the OSP serve conservationists and other groups?
The OSP maintains contacts via e-mail with representatives of several orchid conservation groups, as well as recognized experts in different fields. For example, certain rare stanhopea
species are handed off to our stanhopea "pros." Cypripediums get similar treatment, and so on. As such, although we strive to conserve ALL species of orchids, certain species get
preferential treatment such that their numbers may be maintained in cultivation.
Do you guarantee viability of your seed?
We cannot guarantee viable seed; we do our best on this end to maintain seed under the best possible conditions, but due to the large volume of seed, we cannot test each batch before it
leaves. We have started to examine seed for presence or absence of embryos, but this is NOT a promise of germinability or viability. Seed that looks fine may be too old to germinate, or it may be
that the seed is still germinable, but we have not developed the technology to sprout it. We may be going to 2,3,5-TTC testing to determine viability before long, but this step will take a
We strongly encourage recipients to relay information about viability back to the OSP; seed that receives more than one or two unsatisfactory viability results will be re-examined, and pulled
from distribution if deemed necessary.
How do you ship seed?
Please see our information under shipping for further information.
Do you perform research?
The many members of the loose affiliation of OSP growers, donors and recipients include researchers from many fields, each of whom have much to offer. We support and work with taxonomists,
horticulturists, chemists, biologists, biochemists, and others in the science realm to expand our knowledge of the orchid seed.
Cool! Such as?
Improving longevity of seed in storage, use of disinfectants for in vitro propagation, enhancing communication bewteen researchers, and otherwise assisting the Teeming Millions in their
What types of storage do you use?
We store most of our orchid seed at 4 degrees C, in refrigeration. The seed packets are stored with a small container of calcium chloride/water slurry to provide the correct amount of
moisture to provide optimal storage conditions for the seeds. We also have a small number of seeds that are stored in liquid nitrogen to determine if this method of storage is a viable technique
for conservation and preservation of species.
How do I grow orchids from seed?
Growing orchids from seed is something that can be done either in a commercial lab, or in your own home. Although a very few seeds might germinate under the correct conditions in the
greenhouse, the vast majority of orchids propagated today are done so under sterile conditions. We recommend (not surprisingly) our book that we have
assembled for growers- covering everyone from the novice to the established expert. It tells you how to assemble your home lab, using readily available equipment such as an aquarium for a flasking
box, bleach for disinfection, and where to purchase the appropriate media. Sterilization of the media and flasks (Mason jars are recommended) is performed with a pressure cooker. Although designed
to accomodate the novice, Asymbiotic Technique of Orchid Seed Germination covers HEPA filters, the role of individual components in orchid germination and culture media, making your own tools, and a complete directory of where to purchase almost everything listed in the manual. It is up to date, having been published in November, 1999.
What does the book cost?
About US$45. This is a professional text, consisting of 145 pages of referenced scientific material. Consider what your own time is worth. Two years in the making, this book covers every
conceivable aspect of orchid seed germination, from pollination to de-flasking your seedlings.
Are you available for lectures and talks?
Only on special occasions. Due to the nature of our work, we are generally busy and, therefore, only very rarely available to give talks. We are happy to provide information as to our
activities in research and conservation, and would be happy to provide articles for your society's newsletter. Subjects range from orchid book reviews to esoterica on plant pathogens. Please contact ahicks51(at)REMOVEcox.net for more information.
Will there be more later?
Yeah; I just piece this stuff together as I go. :-) This is just the start of it all.