Stories of our connected and rapidly changing region.


Building An Ark For New England’s Rare Plants, Seed By Seed

New England Wildflower Society’s Bill Brumback, opening the freezer that acts as the “seed vault,” in Framingham, Mass.
Photo by Jill Kaufman for NEPR

In New England, 22 percent of the region’s native plants are considered rare. Some of them are on the federal list of endangered species. Biologists worldwide and locally have been saving crop seeds, and seeds from other plants important to the ecosystem.

Banking them is an attempt to stop the plants from disappearing altogether. In the past year, seed collectors have been stepping up their pace.

There’s a “seed ark” in Framingham, Massachusetts, at Garden in the Woods, a place as beautiful as its name. On a warm summer night, New England Wildflower Society Conservation Director Bill Brumback unlocked the door of a nondescript cinder block building that houses the ark, or vault. It looks exactly like the extra freezer you might keep in your garage. Except for what’s inside.

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