Ten Extremely Rare Seeds on the Brink of Extinction
The Millennium Seed Bank has set out to collect 25 percent of the world's plant species by 2020—before it is too late
- By Megan Gambino
- Smithsonian.com, May 14, 2012
(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
Name: Syrian bear’s breeches (Acanthus syriacus)
Status: The spiny perennial herb is found in southern Turkey, Syria, Israel and Jordan, but it is endangered in Lebanon. It took four years and multiple trips, from 1998 to 2002, for Millennium Seed Bank scientists to locate a few healthy, seed-bearing plants.
Threats: “Acanthus” comes from the Greek word “akanthos,” meaning spine. Syrian bear’s breeches resemble the spiky stems of pineapples, yet they grow upwards of 20 inches tall. Since the sharp plants can be harmful to curious livestock, Lebanese farmers cut them down before they reach maturity.
Learn more about Syrian bear’s breeches at the Encyclopedia of Life.