Historic New Forest tree preserved for the future in world seed bank

Tree officer Liz Beckett helps collect beech seed for Kew's Millennium Seed Bank

Published Wednesday 26 November 2014

Seeds from an ancient New Forest tree earmarked hundreds of years ago for the King’s shipbuilding programme will be preserved as part of the world’s largest plant conservation programme.

A tree bearing the ‘King’s Mark’ – an arrow etched into the trunk – was one of the trees chosen to be included in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, made possible with funding generated by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The New Forest National Park Authority identified the beech tree near Emery Down as one of five species to be included in Kew’s UK National Tree Seed Project. Tree seeds collected as part of the project will be safely banked in the underground vaults at Wakehurst to ensure the species are safe for the future.

New Forest National Park Tree Officer Liz Beckett said they are working with Kew to collect seeds from crab apple, whitebeam, beech, hornbeam, gorse and rowan.

She said: ‘Representatives from the Navy would have reserved the beech tree as it was a straight, prime specimen and therefore ideal for planks used for ships’ interiors. For some reason this one wasn’t used.

‘Part of the criteria for collecting seeds for the Seed Bank is that they have to come from semi-natural or ancient woodland of four or more hectares, as every effort must be made to ensure that the seeds are from naturally occurring populations.

‘The New Forest has the greatest concentration of ancient and veteran trees in western Europe. It’s exciting to think that this historic tree earmarked by the Navy hundreds of years ago will now form part of this national collection.

‘The project runs until 2018 so we hope to increase the number of tree species collected from the New Forest over the next few years.’

Seeds from a tree with the King's Mark will be saved for the future in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank
The seeds can then play a vital role in research projects and conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands, including against pests and diseases such as ash dieback. The collections, and associated data, will be available to research organisations working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

Clare Trivedi, UK National Tree Seed Project Co-ordinator, said: ‘Almost all of the nation’s favourite trees species – from oak to ash to beech – are affected by a variety of pests and diseases. We are thrilled that the New Forest National Park Authority has joined the UK National Tree Seed Project.

‘This project is really important for the future of our trees, wildlife and landscape – but we cannot do it all by ourselves. Contributions from partners such as the National Park Authority are absolutely vital to help us ensure all areas across the UK are covered.’

The UK National Tree Seed Project launched in May 2013 with a list of 50 priority trees and shrubs targeted for collection. This priority list gave ranking to individual species according to conservation ratings, prevalence in the landscape, vulnerability to pests and diseases as well as their native status. Species on the list include ash, common juniper, Scots pine, common alder, common beech, silver birch and yew.

Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank works with a network of partners across 80 countries and has successfully banked over 13% of the world's wild plant species. They are on target to save 25% of those species with bankable seeds by 2020 (75,000 species).

View a photo gallery of the tree seed collection.

National Tree Week 29 November – 7 December 2014

If you would like to help trees in the New Forest, why not join the tree planting day at the National Trust’s Foxbury Plantation near Wellow on Sunday 30 November? You can help with the project to plant 20,000 broadleaf specimens by 2019:

For more details on National Tree Week, visit www.treecouncil.org.uk/Take-Part/National-Tree-Week.

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Notes to editors

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract over 1.5 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately half its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.

More about Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank:

People’s Postcode Lottery is Britain’s charity lottery. Players play with their postcodes to win cash prizes while raising money for good causes in their area. www.postcodelottery.co.uk/society

For further information about People’s Postcode Lottery please contact Kathryn McAuley on 0131 243 4966 or Kathryn.mcauley@postcodelottery.co.uk

Media Contact:
Hilary Makin, Communications Manager, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646608
Email: hilary.makin@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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