A group of experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, have been up in County Durham nosing around in our woods.

The experts have been collecting seeds – which are to be stored in underground vaults.

So far so mysterious, but it’s all part of the UK National Tree Seed Project. This project, which began in 2013, is creating a collection of tree seeds – with the aim of protecting British woodlands from the growing threat posed by diseases and pests.

The UK National Tree Seed Project states that this collection will be “genetically comprehensive and comprise sufficient seeds to support research and conservation, in order to meet the challenges facing UK forests.”

The Kew team have visited countryside along the east Durham coast, looking for plants such as wild-privet, spindle and guelder-rose.

The team – aided by the Durham Wildlife Trust – have been investigating sites such as Blackhall Rocks, Hawthorn Dene and Hesleden Dean.

Ian Willey, a fieldwork officer with the UK National Tree Seed Project, said, “It was a great trip, especially considering we made our northern-most collections of guelder-rose and spindle.”

“Visiting the many beautiful wooded denes and scrubland gills was a joy and I learnt much in the process, chatting to local enthusiasts and dog walkers.”

“It is great to see and hear how well areas have recovered after serving as dumping grounds for colliery waste.”

Project coordinator Claire Trivedi said, “Building up our seed collections of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combatting the multiplying pests and diseases which threaten to alter our landscape dramatically.”

Mark Dinning, from Durham Wildlife Trust, said, “We were only too happy to support this project.”

“This work is really quite an important conservation effort to not just preserve species in County Durham, but UK-wide.”

(Featured image courtesy of thornypup, from Flickr Creative Commons)





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