International seed exchanges

The different seed packets that make up the 2021 Index seminum.
Credit: Espace pour la vie/Julie Corbeil Walsh
Les différents sachets de graines composant l’Index seminum 2021.
  • Les différents sachets de graines composant l’Index seminum 2021.
  • La table de travail utilisée pour nettoyer les semences récoltées.
  • Les Index seminum du Jardin botanique de Montréal sont publiés aux deux ans.
  • Récolte de semences en milieu naturel par l’équipe de gestion des collections du Jardin botanique de Montréal.
  • Semences de bouleau jaune (Betula alleghaniensis), l’arbre emblématique du Québec.
  • La bibliothèque de semences de l’équipe de gestion des collections est un outil de référence pour valider l’identification de certaines graines.
International seed exchanges

Every year, Montréal’s Seedy Weekend is a don’t-miss event for plant lovers. It’s a terrific opportunity for showcasing the colossal efforts of local seed producers, who work to preserve the genetic diversity of a host of plant species and varieties. It’s also a chance to take another look at the importance we attach to seeds in our lives.

And speaking for the Jardin botanique de Montréal’s collections management team, the importance attributed to seeds is enormous. They’re dear to our hearts, because they allow us among other things to diversify our plant collections both in our outdoor gardens and our exhibition greenhouses. Beginning in December, and through to March, we take delivery of hundreds of Index seminum, most of them from Europe, but some from the rest of the world as well.

What is an Index seminum?

Index seminum is the Latin term for designating a list of seeds. These lists are compiled by scientific institutions, such as a botanical garden or a university. They’re along the same lines as a seed catalogue offered by the different seed producers in Québec; however, unlike the conventional catalogues intended for the general public, an Index does not include pictures or growing instructions. Generally speaking, the only things it contains are the Latin name of the plant and its origin (collected in the wild, or not). Index seminum are at the heart of an informal global seed exchange program, which was introduced with the creation of the earliest botanical gardens many decades ago. The very first Index seminum from the Jardin botanique was unveiled in 1936, just a few years after the founding of the Jardin in 1931!

A two-part seed exchange program

Seed exchanges take place in a spirit of cooperation and mutual assistance among various botanic institutions around the world, they are carried out solely for educational, collection, conservation and/or research purposes, and have no commercial value. At the Jardin botanique, we handle the receipt of numerous international Index seminum as well as the production of our own Index.

Participating botanical institutions comply with the code of conduct and rules of the IPEN (International Plant Exchange Network), in among other ways by respecting the prohibition against selling plant materials obtained by way of the Index seminum.

The different exchanges around the world

Index seminum allow for privileged access to the world’s flora. The many examples received at the Jardin botanique are made available to the horticulture team, who place their order on the basis of the collections under their responsibility. These exchanges, for non-commercial use, constitute an effective means for developing our plant collections. Besides, they often make up the sole access to wild species impossible to find on the market.

Index seminum contribute to the implementation of the three goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, namely “the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the exploitation of genetic resources.”1

The Index of the Jardin botanique de Montréal

The major harvest of seeds native to Québec takes place every two years and is used to fill the pages of our Index seminum. This list is composed of indigenous Québec seeds harvested in natural environments. Production of our Index involves several tasks: harvesting, identification, cleaning, conservation, recording and sending out hundreds of seed packets to different countries (Czech Republic, Spain, Norway, Germany, Georgia, Ukraine, South Korea, Bulgaria, Italy, and so on). These mailings go exclusively to the scientific institutions taking part in the seed exchange program from a perspective of research, education and conservation.

Seeds, although very small, have a very big role to play in the conservation of our plant heritage. Moreover, gardening on the basis of seeds is a challenge that brings a satisfaction no gardeners should deny themselves.


1 Government of Canada, Convention on Biological Diversity:

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