The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has been collecting the tree seeds of alder buckthorn, silver birch, midland hawthorn and wild service across Wiltshire and Hampshire to bank in its seed bank to ensure their long-term conservation.
This is part of Kew’s UK National Tree Seed Project, set up in 2013 with funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, to collect the seeds of the UK’s native trees and shrubs.
The tree seeds collected will be safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world, to form the UK’s first national collection of tree seeds.
These collections play a vital role in conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands, including against pests and diseases such as ash dieback and global challenges such as the effects of climate change. The collections, and associated data, are available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.
Some of the species proved more of a challenge for collection because they can be confused with other species or may be scarcer to find.
Despite these challenges the team from Kew were successful, collecting seed from 30 separate trees and shrubs for the four target species. Collections were made as far south as the New Forest to north of Swindon. Once collected, the seeds were transported to the Millennium Seed Bank where scientists curate, monitor and germinate banked seeds.
Ian Willey, fieldwork officer for the UK National Tree Seed Project said, “It was brilliant to have such a successful seed collecting trip in a beautiful part of the country. I would like to thank Friends of Bentley Wood, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, National Trust and Natural England for their help and advice”
The UK National Tree Seed Project was launched in May 2013 with the aim of securing genetically diverse collections of UK native trees and shrubs. The target species the project aims to collect include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity, as well as supporting the woodland industry, tourism and recreation. So far the project has collected over 13 million tree seeds from over 70 different species right across the UK, from Cornwall to the Isle of Harris, and Northern Ireland to Norfolk. From sea level up to 600 metres above sea level. The project has had the support of over 400 volunteers from 30 partner organisations in a massive UK wide conservation programme.