We are very excited to publish our first A-Z draft list of Threatened plants.
We are now looking to gather information on every cultivar listed, to determine its Plant Heritage Value – is it worth conserving? And meanwhile, keep growing them – hello to all our new Plant Guardians.
The Threatened Plants Project has been running since 2009, and we have now listed or are listing 363 genera out of more than a thousand in British horticulture which have cultivars. Listing has been completed for 320 genera, and 274 have been assessed for Threatened plants. After further checking, 127 genera are now on the website, and we will keep adding more. (For more detail of the process see my article in The Plantsman.)
What have we discovered?
11,243 cultivars, 2/3 of all cultivars known, are rare enough to be Threatened in cultivation.
Only half of the Threatened cultivars have still been found growing. These are Endangered in cultivation (ENic). Half of these are in National Plant Collections – well done our Collection Holders. Half are in other gardens, for example at Wisley or with the National Trust. It is unusual for a Threatened plant to still be alive in more than one location, so we do need to be propagating them for security.
Almost half of the Threatened cultivars cannot be found – these are Critical in cultivation (CRic). They may occasionally have one supplier in the Plant Finder, or be available from nurseries not listed in the Plant Finder, but they aren’t recorded in any garden yet checked.
I took some of these results to UK PlantSci 2014 ‘Plant science – sustaining life on earth’ at the end of March, speaking to a conference of 160 delegates. The scale of the problem, in terms of numbers of cultivars, was gasped at, and the idea of conserving cultivars was well received, so it was rewarding for Plant Heritage to be so visible in this high level plant science forum. The talk was live tweeted and researchers from other institutions picked up on our research findings in the project. Much of the research presented dealt with detailed genetics, so future work at this level with cultivars is likely to be rewarding. I think they were also taken aback that we had lone staff running a marathon to raise money rather than million-pound budgets from research councils!
I would also like to say thank you to another volunteer: Robina has been helping with the project in the office since November, and has finished listing and collections-checking for thousands of cultivars including those of Cotyledon, Jovibarba, Ribes, Sempervivum, Tulbaghia, Wisteria and of course Robinia. Look out for them on the Threatened list.
Initially in the project, volunteer listers from many Groups chose their own genera of horticultural interest. In Surrey and Norfolk, local Collections were prioritised. Other stalwarts went for the biggest genera – such as Rosa, with 4,179 cultivars. These days, we do most work helping to set up conservation plans for Threatened plants already identified, with new genus listings triggered by Plant Conservation Committee (PCC) proposals, applications, reviews and withdrawals.
Collection Holders and experts, we haven’t forgotten you. Information gathering on Threatened cultivars continues, with people taking between 2 minutes and 2 years to send us comments. All are welcome. Please do check the list to see if your genus is yet included, or drop us an email any time and we can send you the list of interest and categories in which we are seeking information.
Meanwhile, look out for the new leaflet about the project sponsored by Johnsons Seeds, which made its debut at Hampton Court.