UK National Tree Seed Project (2018-20)

Assynt Field Club has been collecting native tree seeds from the area and protecting their future by banking them in the vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank

The Assynt Field Club is a partner in the UK National Tree Seed Project. This seven year project was set up by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The project’s aim was to build a collection of the country’s native tree seeds for long-term conservation.

Tree seeds that have been collected as part of the project are safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. This is the largest wild plant seed bank in the world and forms 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 and global challenges such as the effects of climate change. The collections, and associated data, are available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

Assynt Field Club has been working over the last two years to collect more than 30,000 seeds. We employed Roz Summers, who with the help of several volunteers, successfully collected species such as holly, hazel, wych elm, ash, dwarf birch and many more. Despite rain, sun and snow Roz has been identifying, recording and collecting seeds and preparing them for transport to the Millennium Seed Bank.

The Field Club have used their expertise to locate difficult to find species and are very proud to be part of this national scheme to protect our genetic diversity. Assynt does not have many trees and many of them are remote and isolated. The project has added to our understanding of the Assynt landscape and unique ecology. We are very pleased that the seeds of ‘our’ trees will now be conserved for years to come and are safely banked in the vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. This bank currently houses over 2 billion seeds and will be used for research to protect the UK’s woodlands.

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 target species the project aims to collect include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity, as well as supporting the woodland industry, tourism and recreation. So far, the project has collected over 13 million tree seeds from over 70 different species right across the UK, from Cornwall to the Isle of Harris, and Northern Ireland to Norfolk. From sea level up to 600 metres above sea level. The project has had the support of over 400 volunteers from 30 partner organisations in a massive UK wide conservation programme.

Alice Hudson, UK National Tree Seed Project Officer, says “Over the last seven years, with the help of all our partners and the generous funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery we have created a resource that we hope to be genetically representative of our target native UK tree species. Building up this seed collection of some of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combating the multiple challenges facing our woodlands, such as pests and diseases and a warming climate. We can’t thank Assynt Field club enough for their support in ensuring that seeds from across the UK are collected and their future conserved.”

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