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UK juniper protected in national seed banks

Horticultural experts have collected and stored juniper seeds from across the UK in underground vaults as part of a bid to preserve declining populations of the plant – essential for gin-making.

The project has “banked” 5.8 million seeds from 6,500 UK trees since May 2013

The juniper berries used in gin-making take two years to mature slowly on the plant and are essential in producing the distinctive flavour of gin.

The UK National Tree Seed Project has been set up by the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, London, to help conserve the declining juniper plant, storing the plants in the Millennium Seed Bank.

The project has “banked” 5.8 million seeds from 6,500 UK trees since May 2013.

Tree seeds collected as part of the project are being safely banked at -20°C in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in Sussex.

In 2017, the project collected its seeds from across the UK, including counties such as Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Cumbria, Conwy and the Highlands.

In 2016, seeds were collected from 3,000 trees across 59 different counties including Shropshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon and Pembrokeshire, as well as numerous sites across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Richard Deverell, director of RBG Kew, said: “2016 has been a fantastic year for The UK National Tree Seed Project and I’m delighted to hear that we’ve now fully collected and conserved our native juniper species.

“This project is a huge undertaking, but once complete it will provide a fundamental collection of our iconic British trees, helping Kew to lead the way in tackling the many threats facing the UK’s stunning woodlands.

“This phenomenal work would not be possible without the incredible support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, which this month surpassed an enormous £1m in support to Kew.”

Dr Shelagh McCartan, seed scientist at Forest Research, added: “Forest Research is delighted to be involved in the UK National Tree Seed Project. Collecting viable seeds from juniper is not always easy and the berries we harvested from 43 different populations throughout Britain will not only play an important part in this conservation work but help us understand the challenges facing this iconic tree species.”

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