UK Experts Successfully Grow Rare Birch Species

Scientists from UK finally germinated Betula chichibuensis seedlings, an endangered Japanese Birch species. These were the first successfully germinated seedlings for the past thirty years. There are only 21 known surviving species of the tree. The propagation of the trees needs to be aided or else the trees won’t last.

Two trees need to be located near enough to make cross-pollination possible. This makes production of seeds difficult in small groups. Deforestation and forest degradation also threatens the survival of the rare birch trees.

On 2014, a group of experts led by University of Oxford Botanic Gardens together with University of Tokyo went on a mission to gather seeds from Betula chichibuensis species. Dan Luscombe of Forestry Commission’s Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest joined the team.

Luscombe said they were fortunate to arrive at the perfect time. The tree was found in an extremely isolated location which is difficult to access. It was the time when the seeds were shedding which it does only once. They were able to gather plenty of seeds from the deteriorating tree.

Luscombe approximated that the group collected around a thousand seeds. From these seeds, Bedgebury Pinetum was able to germinate a hundred seedlings. He explained that the seedlings are extremely rare and forests are vulnerable. Someone who wants to return them to their natural habitat or plant them on a different place must learn how to raise them.

The lasting goal of the venture is to grow the rare birch seedlings in different arboretums throughout U.K. They will also continue collaboration with experts in Japan to guard the existence of the rare Japanese birch species in the forests.

Luscombe and his colleagues plan to try cultivating the birch trees in diverse weather conditions, soils and other environments. He expounded that cultivating the seedlings in different areas of the country would lessen the risk of trees destructed by storm or plant diseases.

They also plan to make seed orchards for a continuous seed supply. The trees can be placed in parks and landscapes with the help of Pro Decor as long as the owners will learn how to take care of the threated species of Japanese birch.