Seeds of Time


Paul Smith

Secretary General, Botanical Gardens Conservation International

Dr. Paul Smith is the former Head of the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) – the largest and most diverse seed bank in the world. During his nine years at the helm, seeds from more than 25,000 plant species were conserved in the MSB and, in 2009, the MSB achieved its first significant milestone, securing seed from 10% of the world’s plant species, prioritizing rare, threatened and useful plants.

Since then, the MSB and its 170 partner institutions in 80 countries around the world have set themselves the target of conserving 25% of the world’s flora by 2020. The ultimate aim is to bank the seed of all plant species and to make that seed available for use in the landscape. During the last five years, Paul and his team have promoted the concept of seed banks as a resource for human innovation, adaptation and resilience, and, today, seeds from the MSB and its partner seed banks are being used in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and habitat restoration.

Paul trained as a plant ecologist and is a specialist in the plants and vegetation of southern Africa. He is the author of two field guides to the flora of south-central Africa and the Vegetation Atlas of Madagascar. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Geographical Society.