UK native seed hub – a project aimed at restoring meadows




A new seed bank hopes to protect native plants from meadows and open spaces around the UK.

Initial seed production beds for the UK Native Seed Hub now open to the public at Wakehurst Place. Pic - RBG Kew

Initial seed production beds for the UK Native Seed Hub now open to the public at Wakehurst Place. Pic - RBG Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has launched the UK Native Seed Hub at the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst Place, West Sussex.

Drawing on the Millennium Seed Bank’s extensive collection of UK native seeds, as well as its horticultural and scientific expertise to support the UK seed industry, conservation groups and other organisations will work to restore native plants to the UK countryside.

The UK Native Seed Hub will eventually support restoration efforts across the full spectrum of UK habitats, but will focus initially on plants of lowland meadows or semi-natural grassland.

Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, with a gift of £750,000 as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, the money will establish the project over four years.

The UK Native Seed Hub will comprise a dedicated seed store, and approximately one hectare of seed production beds, which are currently being developed.

For the first year, interim seed production beds, open to the public until the end of September, have been set up in the walled nursery at Wakehurst Place.

These are home to 10 native species, such as the cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) and devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), both of which have been difficult to cultivate for seed production in the past.

Devil's - bit scabious. Pic - RBG Kew

Devil's - bit scabious. Pic - RBG Kew

Visitors will also be able to experience a newly restored lowland meadow around the Millennium Seed Bank building.

Grasslands like these are a precious but vanishing habitat. Fragments survive in areas that have not been ploughed, re-seeded or heavily fertilized. They contain a diverse range of plants which in turn support a variety of insects, birds and other animals. Compared to the 1930s, only 2% of species-rich grasslands remain and the potential for restoring these attractive habitats is immense.

High quality seed stock

Working alongside commercial companies and restoration practitioners, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank experts will create high quality seed stocks of selected UK species, stored to international standards to maintain viability and genetic integrity.

Samples from these stocks will then be made available to commercial seed companies for bulking up for use by conservation organisations in landscape-scale restoration projects.

It is essential that we use the collection and our expertise to assist the restoration of lost habitats and the reintroduction of lost species
Professor Stephen Hopper, Director (CEO and Chief Scientist), Kew

In the event that land management changes alone cannot achieve natural regeneration of the plant community, seed can be highly effective for increasing the species diversity in a restoration project.

Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank will also continue to work with conservation agencies to safeguard the UK’s most threatened plants.

Conservation collections will be held in long term storage, but seeds and plants will also be raised to support the re-introduction of these species to suitable sites.

Knowledge and information generated by the UK Native Seed Hub project will be shared freely and training will be provided to landowners and agencies wishing to grow and use native plants.

Professor Stephen Hopper, Director (CEO and Chief Scientist), Kew said: “Not only is it now more critical than ever that seeds are stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, but it is also essential that we use the collection and our expertise to assist the restoration of lost habitats and the reintroduction of lost species to provide a better environment for future generations. The UK Native Seed Hub is a significant first step on this road.”

Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank safeguards around 90% of UK species in its vaults – almost all of the native flora.

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