A CHARITY says it is helping secure the future of Scotland’s native trees by giving seeds to the first national collection of its kind in the UK.
Trees for Life says it has donated the equivalent of 160,000 Scottish trees to the special underground vault being established by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
They includes a unique collection of ash seeds, known as keys, harvested from the most northerly ash wood in Britain at Rassal in the Highlands.
Professional climbers helped to collect the ash keys from this ancient woodland site which is thought to be 6,000 years.
The UK National Tree Seed Project has been set up by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to help protect UK trees and woodlands against pests and diseases such as ash dieback and other threats.
The collections are used by researchers working on solutions to tackle the issues facing the UK’s woodlands and is funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Emma Beckinsale, Tree Nursery Assistant at Trees for Life, says, “Being involved in the UK National Tree Seed Project has been hugely rewarding – we’ve explored new areas, found new tree populations, met helpful people, and have contributed to the conservation of native species.”
“Next year we’ll be focussing on collecting from native tree species which have seeds that are difficult to store, including different species of willow and aspen, a tree which rarely sets seed in the wild.”
Clare Trivedi, UK National Tree Seed Project Co-ordinator at Kew Gardens, said they were ‘delighted’ to have so many samples form Scotland.
She said: “Building up our seed collections of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combating the multiple challenges, including pests and diseases, which threaten to alter our landscape dramatically.
“We are delighted that Trees for Life is supporting this project to help us ensure that seeds from Scotland are collected and conserved.”
The UK National Tree Seed Project launched in May 2013 with the aim of securing genetically diverse collections of UK native trees and shrubs.
The species target list takes into account factors such as conservation status, prevalence in the landscape and vulnerability to pests and diseases.
The target species include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity, as well as supporting woodland industry, tourism and recreation, such as ash, juniper, Scots pine, alder, beech, silver birch and yew.
To date, the project says it has collected more than 8.6 million seeds sampling from over 7,300 individual trees across the UK.
Trees for Life is an award-winning charity working to restore the native Caledonian Forest to the Highlands of Scotland, including to its 10,000 acre Dundreggan Conservation Estate where they grow and propagate trees in the Dundreggan Tree Nursery.
The charity’s rewilding activity includes working for the return of rare woodland wildlife, such as red squirrels, and plants, and carrying out scientific research and education programmes.
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WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: About the Millennium Seed Bank
IMAGE CREDITS: Trees for Life