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Plant Focus

Quercus macdougallii
A rare oak endemic to the Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca

Seed Exchange Guidelines

Are you aware that our organization actually began more than three decades ago as a very small handful of people exchanging acorns? We have grown far past those humble beginnings and have become the premier oak organization on the planet, but we still pay homage to that early tradition by continuing the Seed Exchanges at every Conference. Wherever you live, if you are an oak person you probably have access to some oaks that someone else from another part of the world would love to grow. 

Seed Exchange at the Morton
Seed Exchange at the 8th IOS Conference, The Morton Arboretum, 2015 © Warren Chatwin

The Conference this year is moving forward a few weeks to take advantage of the many local oak species in the U.S. Southwest that mature their acorns far ahead of most other areas. Yet it will be just late enough that some of the early ripening trees in other regions should have some viable, nearly ripe seed as well. Many acorns can be picked a little green as long as the cap can be separated from the nut without tearing the hilum scar, and we encourage you to do that at the last minute as you pack your bags for the Conference. Such acorns will need some extra care to avoid fungus problems as they metabolize during the final ripening period, so keep them cool but well aerated and you might be surprised with the results! 

Seed Exchange at Davis
IOS members "at the trough" during the Seed Exchange at the 9th IOS Conference at UC Davis, 2018 © Guy Sternberg

We hope every person on the two Pre-Conference Tours will plan to collect seed where permitted for the Seed Exchange, packaging it in small labeled ziplock bags just like you do for the seed you bring from home. Bring those extra bags and labels and be prepared! But bring some seed with you as well if you can. Whether your seeds are from the trips or your local forests back home, here are some procedures to follow:

  1. Collect and bring only clean seed with no signs of disease or insect infestation. Examine the acorns for discoloration or insect entry holes and float them in water to remove those floaters that have been dehydrated or partially eaten.
  1. Keep your collected ripe seeds in refrigeration (but NOT frozen) in lightly perforated plastic bags until you leave for the Conference. Seeds that are still green and ripening may be spread thinly on cardboard trays or cloths in a shaded area (protected from rodents, monkeys, and birds) to facilitate final ripening, then stored cold. 
  1. Any seeds that emit condensation while in storage should be removed from the bags, allowed to surface dry in the shade overnight or longer, and then repackaged in clean bags. If fungus has begun to attack, those seeds should be drenched in a 1:10 bleach:water solution, allowed to surface dry, and then freshly bagged again and returned to cold storage. Be sure to remove the cupules from infected seeds because the fungi tend to live under the cupule. You may bring detached, sterilized cupules in a separate bag for herbarium specimens. 
  1. Inspect your seeds frequently for fungus or early germination while in storage. If they begin to sprout, the radicals may be clipped at their tips to delay elongation and to force root branching. Do not turn the bags over because any emerged radicals will twist due to geotropism. Always store them with the radical pointed downward. 
  1. Pack seeds in small quantities of 5–10 per plastic bag. Include a label in or on each bag giving the following information:
    A. Species or hybrid name, including any subspecific data such as variety.
    B. Source location (GPS if possible), elevation, and habitat if noted, and whether collected from a wild or cultivated source. Include the names of any nearby likely pollen donor trees of a different taxon.
    C. Your name and contact information so that the recipient will be able to contact you with any questions. A commonly used practical way to do this is to insert printed business cards in each bag. 
  1. If you are traveling by air, punch a few very tiny holes in each bag to allow for pressure adjustment during flight. If the bags are tightly sealed they are likely to burst open in cargo at high elevation, spilling seeds throughout your luggage and mixing up all the species you are bringing. 
  1. As soon as you arrive at Las Cruces, hand your seed donations to the Conference coordinator for appropriate cold storage until the Seed Exchange, which will take place on the final day so that the seeds each participant takes back home will be as fresh as possible. This also will help us with a preliminary count so we will know how many seed tables to set up. (Those arriving at diverse locations for Pre-Conference Tours will need to arrange with Tour leaders for cool storage during the Tours.)
  1. The Seed Exchange is open to members only. As you move through the seed tables, please take only one small bag of any selection until every person has had an opportunity to find something of interest. At that point we will announce that the remaining seeds, if any, are available in any additional quantity desired. 
  1. Please follow all applicable protocols regarding seed transportation from and to any jurisdictions involved in your travels. Regulations seem to change frequently and vary from place to place, so if you are unsure contact your country's agricultural agency for suggestions. And please note that a permit is required to import seed into the U.S. See here for information on Plants and Plant Products Permits.
  1. Bring as much seed as you can, remembering that properly packaged, clean seed is more important that massive amounts of seeds that have not been properly labeled and packaged. Remember that this is an OAK Conference, but if you have some other related species available such as Lithocarpus we will set up a non-oak table for such items. Plan to have fun at the best Seed Exchange on Earth! 
    Seed Exchange Table
    One of several tables laid out with acorn packages at the 8th IOS Seed Exchange © Warren Chatwin