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The Mediterranean Plant Conservation Unit (MPCU) of CIHEAM - IAMC is a unit dedicated to the study and conservation of Mediterranean plants and to supporting educational and research activities of the M.Sc. programmes of CIHEAM - IAMC.

Main objectives

  • Conservation of native, rare and endemic flora, either by ‘ex situ conservation’ (by transferring plants outside their natural habitat, such as seed collection and storage in the Seed Bank) or by ‘in situ conservation’ (implementing measures to preserve the natural habitats and populations of plants, e.g. Plant Micro-Reserves)
  • Conservation of landraces from Crete and other regions of Greece
  • Studies and research on native Mediterranean plants (germination biology, ecology, geographical distribution, uses, threats, etc.)
  • Training on plant conservation methods for pre- and postgraduate students, technical and scientific personnel of other institutions with related activities (e.g. Forest Directorates, Management Bodies of protected areas, seed banks, etc.)
  • Increasing public awareness about the value of our natural heritage through the creation of a demonstrative Botanical Garden and Information Centre, the publication of brochures, leaflets, and creating audio-visual material

Research and cooperation projects

The MPCU participates in national, international and EU-funded research and cooperation projects (e.g. CARE-MEDIFLORA, ECOPLANTMED, Zelkova abelicea, Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean, CRETAPLANT) and contributes to the implementation of policies for environmental protection and in particular for plant genetic resources, as shaped by national and European legislation, international conventions, etc.

The MPCU is a member of the European Native Seed Conservation Network (ENSCONET) and of the Network of Mediterranean Plant Conservation Centres (GENMEDA).

Main facilities

Seed bank

The Seed Bank was founded in 2000 and holds collections of endemic, rare and threatened wild plants as well as other wild plants of Crete (medicinal, aromatic, etc) and landraces of cultivated plants.

The infrastructure of the seed bank provides for all the essential steps for the preservation of the seed germplasm, such as collection (well experienced personnel on collection of Cretan flora and on plant identification), seed drying (Drying Room with relative humidity 15-20% and temperature 15 °C), and storage (Cold Room at -18 °C).

In addition, there is a fully equipped laboratory for germination experiments (germination chambers with controlled temperature and light conditions, dark room with safety light for studies on seed dormancy, etc).

Botanical garden

The Botanical Garden, founded in 2001, holds a collection of endemic and threatened plants for demonstration and education purposes.

It is closely linked with the Seed Bank and covers an area of approximately 0.5 ha.

An Information Centre for the Cretan natural environment is also located in the area of the Botanical Garden.


The Herbarium significantly contributes to the work of the Unit and has been operating since 1991. Specimens of Mediterranean plants are preserved and all the required facilities for taxonomic identification of plants of the East Mediterranean region are available.