Correspondent for the Chas Reilly Times
The violet is the state flower of Illinois, but it’s the chokeberry plants that have captured national attention.
Aronia seeds and germplasm from the Kankakee Sands Preserve in Custer Township as well as three other sites in the state were collected and transported to the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames , Iowa, and at the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins. , Colorado, for the purpose of storing them in a national seed vault and for further study.
“Seeds from Kankakee Sands will be stored in a safe for safekeeping,” said Cindy Cain, public information officer for the Will County Forest Preserve District. “Other seeds collected from sites elsewhere in Illinois will be grown in a carefully controlled pollination environment. So they can also be stored and used for research and eventually sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
There are several reasons why aronia seeds were chosen for the program.
People also read…
“The aronia plant, also called aronia, is desirable because it produces fruits that contain a high level of antioxidants and a hybrid of this fruit is used in commercial food production,” Cain said. “It’s also a popular native landscape plant that provides food and habitat for pollinators.”
The seed stash also needed chokeberry seeds from midwestern regions.
“They had East Coast varieties, but not enough Midwestern ones,” Cain said. “So they chose Illinois for its Midwestern plant varieties.”
The process began in May 2021, when U.S. Department of Agriculture horticulturist Jeffrey Carstens contacted the Forest Preserve District to request a special use permit for a variety of activities involving aronia plants on the preserve. from Kankakee Sands.
“It is very encouraging that our multi-year restoration efforts at Kankakee Sands have yielded material that could be useful to other agencies,” Cain said. “That’s why we do what we do. We preserve land and restore it to foster and protect biodiversity.
After receiving the permit, Carstens and a group from the National Germplasm System’s North Central Regional Station collected the seeds as well as samples of the plant’s leaf tissue for genetic analysis.
“Leaf material from our chokeberry plants will be used by researchers now and the seeds will be stored for future use in the event of natural or man-made disasters,” Cain said. “Depending on how they were stored, the seeds could last up to 100 years, according to vault staff.”
Particular care has been taken with seeds and genetic material.
“Leaf tissue samples were placed in packets with silica beads, freeze-dried, and stored in sealed, airtight packets that are now stored in a 5 degree Celsius (41 degree Fahrenheit) room,” Cain said. “Aronia seeds are stored in transparent, thick, resealable plastic packages, kept at a cool temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 Fahrenheit) in a large, walk-in freezer.”
Cain said it was appropriate for the forest reserve district to participate in the seed and germplasm program.
Its “mission statement promises that the district will protect and enhance the natural and cultural resources of Will County for the benefit of present and future generations,” she said. “This partnership is a perfect example of how this commitment is implemented.”