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Rare spiked Rampion plant being nurtured back into Sussex nature
6:00am Sunday 15th December 2013 in News
East Sussex holds the key to the future of an extremely rare species facing extinction.
The Species Recovery Trust, in collaboration with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s UK Native Seed Hub, has restored 26 Spiked Rampion plants to the wild.
The woodland wildflower, known as the Rapunzel plant, is at high risk of extinction in the UK and it is hoped that the reintroduced plants will have a significant impact on its future survival.
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Spiked Rampion (Phyteuma spicatum) is now found at only nine sites in the UK, all of which are in East Sussex.
Dominic Price, director of the Species Recovery Trust, said: “This magnificent plant has now become so rare that the only hope for several of its sites is to take seeds into captivity, hand-rear them and re-release these fully grown plants.
“By combining this with re-coppicing woodland and creating glades we are one step closer to this species having a secure future.”
It is threatened by over-shading, which often arises as a result of poor woodland management, but grazing by rabbits and deer is also a problem for the plant.
Where Spiked Rampion is found at very low numbers, it is at particular risk, as the chances of cross-fertilisation and successful reproduction are drastically reduced.
This means that without the help of reintroduction programmes, small clusters of isolated plants are almost certainly doomed to extinction.
The 26 Spiked Rampion plants have been grown from seed stored at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, near Haywards Heath and restored to a site in East Sussex where only four plants were counted last year.
Stephanie Miles, UK collections co-ordinator at the Millennium Seed Bank, said: “RBG Kew welcomes the opportunity to work with the trust on this exciting restoration project.
“We have used our seed banking, germination and nursery expertise to produce these healthy plants ready for reintroduction.
“The ultimate aim is for these rare plants to thrive in self-sustaining populations, however we have the safeguard of a stock of seeds in the bank to create more plants if necessary.”
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