BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 25 February '17

Kew Gardens banks seeds to conserve the UK’s native juniper trees

With UK sales of gin booming, you’ll be pleased to hear the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announce that the nation’s favourite juniper berry-flavoured spirit is safe.

Collecting and conserving

The juniper ‘berries’ used in gin making take two years to mature slowly on the plant and are essential in producing gin’s distinctive flavour.

The UK National Tree Seed Project – set up by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank – has been collecting native tree seeds from across the UK since May 2013. Juniper is the first species to be collected in its entirety across Great Britain.
 
Common juniper has a wide geographical range and seeds have been collected from areas including Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Cumbria, Conwy and the Highlands.

‘Collecting viable seeds from juniper is not always easy and the berries we harvested from 43 different populations throughout Britain will not only play an important part in this conservation work but help us understand the challenges facing this iconic tree species.’

DR SHELAGH MCCARRAN
Seed scientist at Forest Research

Kew has undertaken this work in collaboration with a range of partners, including Forest Research and Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust, Friends of Abernethy and North Harris Trust, who have been fundamental in completing the collection.

The Tree Seed Project

2016 was a busy year for The UK National Tree Seed Project with seeds from 30 different species – from 3,000 trees across 59 different UK counties – banked in the Millennium Seed Bank.

Tree seeds collected as part of the project are being safely banked at -20°C in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in Sussex, establishing the first national collection of trees seeds.

To date, 5.8 million individual seeds have been banked from approximately 6,500 trees, which will play a vital role in protecting UK trees and tackling the threats facing our woodlands today.

With pests and diseases such as Phytophthora austrocedri threatening the UK’s juniper trees, and ash dieback present in over 40% of the UK, completing a viable and genetically diverse collection of the nation’s favourite and most important tree seeds has never been more urgent.

‘2016 has been a fantastic year for The UK National Tree Seed Project and I’m delighted to hear that we’ve now fully collected and conserved our native Juniper species. This project is a huge undertaking, but once complete it will provide a fundamental collection of our iconic British trees, helping Kew to lead the way in tackling the many threats facing the UK’s stunning woodlands. This phenomenal work would not be possible without the incredible support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, which this month surpassed an enormous £1m in support to Kew.’

RICHARD DEVERELL
Director of RBG Kew

Click here to find out more about The UK National Tree Seed Project.