A central part of effectively managing and utilizing a long-term conservation seed bank is being able to reconstitute plants and populations from seed. For many plants this is a relatively straightforward process, but it is not so for orchids. Orchid propagation from seed is typically difficult at best because of their unique fungal relationships and habitat requirements.
Orchid seeds are the smallest in the plant world, lacking in the food storage (endosperm for some plants, or enlarged cotyledons for others) that often makes up the bulk of other seeds. In the wild, they often rely completely on developing a parasitic relationship with soil fungi to germinate and grow. Seeds can be grown asymbiotically, but this is nearly always done in a lab setting. Symbiotic lab germination is a newer technique that is slowly gaining popularity with those doing research on orchids as the ability to extract and propagate fungi gets refined.
Seedlings, germinated from wild seed and propagated in our labs, are now being reintroduced back to their natural habitats in the Upper-midwest with the help of Melissa Cucan with Stantec and The Ridges Sanctuary.