Cumbria’s trees join botanical bank at Kew Gardens

All eyes were on Kew Gardens recently when the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse re-opened to the public following a five year refurbishment
Image of elder berries. Credit: Alan Price

Elder berries were collected for the Millennium Seed Bank project © Alan Price

While the famous botanical gardens may seem a long way from Cumbria, some of our local conservationists have just completed an important project with Kew, to help preserve some of the wonderful native trees found across our county.

The future of elder, crab apple, wych elm and rowan trees has been assured thanks to a two-year partnership between Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Kew Gardens. As part of the Millennium Seed Bank project, the Trust has provided Kew with thousands of seeds from some of our much-loved indigenous trees, to be used for research and conservation.

Jamie Normington, Senior Education & Volunteering Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust explains why Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank project is so important: “Worringly, about one in five plant species around the world are under threat of extinction. So it’s great to be part of this important global conservation project run by Kew Gardens and to do our bit to help ensure the future of some of our native species of trees found here in Cumbria. They support a wonderful array of wildlife, being important food sources for insects and birds. We’ve worked all over the county collecting seeds and it’s been great to collaborate with many local organisations and people, including the Youth Hostel Association, Natural England, Growing Well and the National Trust, plus local farmers including the Park family at Sizergh and Annie Meanwell (aka Rusland Shepherdess).”

Thousands of seeds were collected during the project, between 2015 and 2017, including: elder at Sizergh Farm, raspberries at Lowther Castle’s ‘lost gardens’; wych elm at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Smardale Gill Nature Reserve, holly from Brigsteer Woods, blackthorn sloes from Rusland and hawthorn from Blawith, not forgetting rowan from Eskdale.

The seeds were given to the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew, a worldwide project whereby seeds are provided from over 80 countries, making it one of the world’s largest plant conservation programmes in the world. The seeds are air-dried and deep-frozen, so that they can be stored long-term for research and conservation. The seed collections may help with the creation of sustainable solutions to the great problems facing the world, including food security, disease, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Find out how Cumbria Wildlife Trust is conserving species and habitats across Cumbria at www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk

About one in five plant species around the world are under threat of extinction
Jamie Normington
Senior Education & Volunteering Officer, Cumbria Wildlife Trust