FAIR TO NATURE HELPS TO CONSERVE ONE OF THE UK’S RAREST PLANTS
Author: Kevin Rylands, Fair to Nature Advisory Development Officer
Did you know Fair to Nature is helping to conserve one of the UK’s rarest plants? Large Venus’s Looking-glass Legousia speculum-veneris grows at only one site in the UK. This farm carefully manages the field as part of their Fair to Nature Farm Plan, annually cultivating an arable margin to create an open, herbicide free, wildflower spectacle.
Last year, when undertaking the Fair to Nature habitat audit, there was a very good display with at least 375 flowering plants but in other years perhaps only half a dozen plants flower. To protect such a small population from disaster, e.g. a stray contractor boom, fire etc, Fair to Nature worked with the farm and Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) to ensure some seed was harvested and conserved in case something were to go wrong on site.
This happened in the autumn of 2021, and Kew’s staff and volunteers made a great collection of seed, which has now been processed, counted (all 11,504 of them) and stored in the MSB’s subterranean Sussex vaults at a balmy -20C. Not only that, whilst on the farm Kew took the opportunity to also collect seeds from the nationally scarce and rapidly declining Corn Spurrey Spergula arvensis with 14,241 seeds in cold store awaiting future conservation opportunities.
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