Plants under threat


Emma Tuck 'Sight Unseen' exhibition

A leading plant conservation charity and an artist highlight the threat to familiar aspects of our landscape – trees and cultivated plants.

Plant Heritage has announced the establishment of an A – Z list of the 11,243 cultivated plants in the UK whose survival is under threat. Whilst at risk plants in the wild have been officially conserved for four decades, this is the first time a record has been drawn up of threatened cultivars and the process has revealed that over two thirds of cultivars are now rare enough to be deemed in danger of disappearing.

Analysis will now begin by Plant Heritage to establish which plants should be saved and the strategies needed to conserve them.

“Not only will we be able to highlight to head gardeners and estate managers the plants they hold which are valuable and need conserving, but we will also be able to indicate where new National Plant Collections are needed and  what plants we can put into our Plant Guardian scheme,” said Mercy Morris Plant Heritage Conservation Officer.

The list was compiled from records held by 819 public gardens including National Plant Collections. Loss of gardens and public spaces, climate change, the vicissitudes of fashion, declining skills and difficulty in propagation probably account for the decline and disappearance of the cultivars.

The list of threatened cultivars can be found on the Plant Heritage website at: along with more details of the work of the charity.

A new exhibition at the National Botanic Garden of Wales is designed to highlight the increasing threat to another part of the landscape which we take for granted- trees.

Concerned about the effect of climate change on trees, and inspired by the Barcode UK  project which aims to DNA barcode all of the UK’s flowering plants, artist Emma Tuck has produced a series of pen- and-ink drawings ‘Sight Unseen’  celebrating the special qualities of trees and featuring the internal structure of cells, tissues and fibres  as well as leaves and bark.

Corylus avellana_GS px

Corylus avellana

Responding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that the world’s forests are showing increasing signs of climate stress, Emma asks,” For how much longer can we look the other way? The natural world is in peril. If we don’t see then we won’t notice as it vanishes before our very eyes.”

The ‘Sight Unseen’ exhibition runs until 30th August at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

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