Protecting the future of Cheshire’s trees at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank

This Autumn Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s volunteers have busy been collecting seed from Alder Buckthorn at its Hatchmere Nature Reserve. The work is part of the UK National Tree Seed Project, a national project to protect the UK’s trees set up by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Tree seeds collected as part of the project are safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank – forming the UK’s first national collection of tree seeds. These collections play a vital role in conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands, including against pests and diseases such as ash dieback. The collections, and associated data, are available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

“The seed collection days offered Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s faithful volunteers a change from their regular practical volunteering task days on the Delamere mosses,” said Kevin Feeney, Living Landscape Officer at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “Alder Buckthorn is a little known tree in the area, however it grows well on the acidic peat soil and heathland found there. The day involved the volunteers first learning to identify the tree, then identifying ripe fruit followed my many hours of seed collection. The target being 10,000 seeds per species!”

Kew Tree Seed collection

Kew Tree Seed collection

So far this year Cheshire Wildlife Trust has collected seeds from five species of tree including wild cherry, guelder rose, wild service and hawthorn, as a partner of the project, with many more collections planned.

The seeds collected are stored in a specially temperature and humidity controlled environment at the Millennium Seed Bank before being processed and transferred to deep-freeze conditions. The seeds should remain viable for many decades and will be available to support research and on-the-ground conservation activity.

Clare Trivedi, UK National Tree Seed Project Co-ordinator at Kew Gardens, says, “Building up our seed collections of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combating the multiple challenges, including pests and diseases, which threaten to alter our landscape dramatically. We are delighted that Cheshire Wildlife Trust is supporting this project to help us ensure that seeds from across the UK are collected and conserved.”

The UK National Tree Seed Project launched in May 2013 with the aim of securing genetically diverse collections of UK native trees and shrubs. The species target list takes into account factors such as conservation status, prevalence in the landscape and vulnerability to pests and diseases. The target species include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity, as well as supporting woodland industry, tourism and recreation, such as ash, juniper, Scots pine, alder, beech, hazel, silver birch and yew. To date, the project has collected more than 12.5 million seeds sampling from over 8,000 individual trees across the UK.