What’s in a Seed?

What’s in a seed? Endosperm. Embryo. Cotyledon. Radicle. Etcetera… The mysterious potential for new life. As our seed collection season slows in Santa Fe, I ponder our intimate connection to the vital rhythms of the natural world. Of course we are all intimately connected to the natural world in one way or another, but handling so many seeds has uniquely intensified my connection to the natural world. My appreciation for and understanding of seeds has grown tremendously. Beyond this appreciation and understanding, I have been forced to question our role in relation to the potential life embedded in the small seeds we handle each day.

Upon explaining the work and vision of Seeds of Success and related plant conservation strategies to a local ecologist, I was inundated with thought provoking questions. What does “local” mean and how does our potential misunderstanding of “local” impact the notion of local adaptation? Can we deny the relativity and subjectivity of this notion? What chance is there that “weed seeds” will get into desired seed? What is a “weed” in our changing world? Are there potential hazards that we may be introducing in our attempts to conserve or restore the environment? Are we a help or a hinderance in our conservation attempts? On a more spiritual level, what are the implications of removing native seeds from their natural habitats? Does the notion of belonging transcend ecology? Where does our instinct to interfere come from? How do we approach environmental conservation properly; is there a proper way to conserve? How can we make informed, adaptive conservation decisions when each ecosystem we are approaching is wholly unique; how can we come to conclusions when truly understanding a place takes decades of deep ecological integration.

These questions have been running through my mind, like a cascading waterfall that I am perpetually coming up against. I am working for what I believe in, while constantly questioning the roots of these beliefs. Through careful attention and criticism even my most deep-rooted beliefs become dynamic and take on an aura of complexity. I encourage all of us to engage in conversations around these issues to understand our perspectives related to the work we do, and the potential implications of those perspectives.

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