The Montréal Botanical Garden’s Index Seminum was published annually from 1936 to 1995. Since 1997, it has been published every two years. Today, it is distributed to nearly 650 botanical institutions and researchers across the world.
The seeds offered come exclusively from harvests in the wild of Québec and neighbouring provinces. Some species from our own collections are occasionally offered in the Index because they are rarely cultivated. Harvesting is done from spring to fall and targets a great diversity of possible species and habitats. Unless there is a great abundance of seeds at a given site, only small quantities are taken in order to minimize the impact on natural populations. No species designated as endangered or threatened in Québec or Canada is harvested. Harvesting permits are requested and entry fees paid to parks and private grounds when necessary.
The Montréal Botanical Garden does not sell its plants to the public, except during the Great Gardening Weekend and special flower sales at the Botanical Garden’s L’Orchidée boutique.
Stages of the Index Seminum
Field work consists of learning about the site, finding plants with mature seeds and harvesting seeds in individual paper bags with proper identification: name of the harvester; date, place and environment of the harvest; and plant name.
Back at the Botanical Garden, the plant is formally identified (a plant specimen is taken from the field when the harvester is uncertain about its identification), the plant’s nomenclature is verified, the seeds are cleaned to extract them from their protective envelope and are then classified.
A computerized database is used to compile harvesting data and produce a list of harvested seeds by family for publication of the Index Seminum.
Next, the Index is sent out to seed exchangers, who make their choices and send in their orders, which are filled and sent out as they are reserved.
Seed exchange is a process that spreads out over the whole year: harvesting, from spring to fall; preparing seeds and the Index in the fall; and order processing in the wintertime.
Based on an article by Denis Barabé and Édith Morin in Quatre-Temps magazine, 17(1), pp.55-58.