An £80 million project has begun to save threatened plant species from extinction.

The first seeds were brought in to the Millennium Seedbank at Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, near Haywards Heath, this morning.

Among them were seeds for a species of grass collected by the head of the project, Roger Smith, during his honeymoon in 1974.

A quarter of century later they have been successfully germinated after being kept in suspended animation.

The seeds were wheeled in during a media day held to show off the international seed conservation project.

Seeds from UK native wildflowers will be the first to be stored in huge underground vaults.

The Millennium Seedbank has been built on two levels covering an area of about 5,500 sq metres.

Its bombproof vaults are maintained at a temperature of minus 20C and the building has been designed to blend in with the local area of outstanding natural beauty.

One of its aims is the collection and conservation of seeds from 10 per cent of the world's seed-bearing flora by 2010.

The project has received funding from the Millennium Commission, the Wellcome Trust and Orange plc.