King Charles III saves an endangered tree by planting it at Westonbirt Arboretum

King Charles III saves an endangered tree by planting it at Westonbirt Arboretum

King Charles III joined staff at the Westonbirt National Arboretum to plant an endangered tree this week.

His Majesty planted an endangered Wollemi pine within Silkwood at Westonbirt Arboretum. The planting event is part of an international conservation effort to create a thriving, genetically diverse population of these rare trees worldwide.

More than 170 young pine and lime trees grown by the Sydney Botanic Gardens were shipped from Australia and carefully cared for at Forestry England’s tree nursery at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest in Kent.

Six trees were planted to become part of the living collection at Westonbirt and a further six were planted at Bedgebury, while the remaining trees were distributed to 27 botanic gardens across the UK and Europe. Separate groups of trees were sent directly from Sydney to five Australian botanic gardens and one in Atlanta, USA.

The Willemme pine has been called the “dinosaur tree” because fossil records show that 200 million years ago it lived alongside dinosaurs. They were thought to have become extinct between 70 and 90 million years ago until they were accidentally discovered in 1994, when Australian explorer and botanist David Noble found a small stand of living trees growing in a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park. In New South Wales.

This moment is considered one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time. The tree species is now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, an important indicator of the world’s biodiversity that determines the extinction risks of plant and animal species.

Since their discovery, concerted efforts have been made to secure this species against the loss of what remains of the wild, with fewer than 100 trees remaining growing in a gorge located 150 kilometers from Sydney. These wild trees are increasingly vulnerable to threats from disease and bushfire and narrowly escaped destruction by the 2019-2020 bushfires that burned more than 10 million hectares of land in eastern Australia.

Recent advances in genetic techniques have enabled Australian plant science and conservation experts to identify and breed genetically diverse Willemme pine trees. For the first time, these genetically diverse collections of seedlings have become available to botanical gardens around the world. Sites with a suitable climate were chosen that were most suitable for trees to withstand future climate changes. Together they will create a sub-collection, a botanical group shared by separate organizations but collaboratively concerned with researching and preserving species for the future. Planting trees around the world in this way maintains the widest range of genetic diversity found in wild populations and aims to protect lime pines from extinction.

Geraint Richards, Chief Forester of the Duchy of Cornwall and His Majesty the King He stated: “It is very significant that His Majesty King Charles III will plant a Willemby pine tree at the world-famous Westonbirt Arboretum. This event combines His Majesty’s long-standing interest in protecting the environment with his great enthusiasm for tree planting. We know that visitors will enjoy seeing this rare species, and we hope Be inspired to learn more about what the world’s leading botanical gardens are doing to protect and conserve our trees.

The King dug up the soil and placed the tree in its new home in Silkwood, surrounded by volunteers and staff from Westonbirt and the arboretum charity, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. This planting contributes to Forestry England’s program of planting and nurturing a diverse range of trees from many locations around the world, trees that are able to adapt to future climate change.

Andrew Smith, Director, Westonbirt ArboretumHe said: “It is very fitting that His Majesty should plant a Wollemi pine here during the year of the coronation. We are also pleased to designate the planting site as ‘Coronation Glade’ to celebrate the coronations of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, both of whom have had a long association with the arboretum. Planting ceremonies like this are a great occasion to encourage people to connect with trees and nature, which is our core mission here at Westonbirt.”

Planting endangered Wollemi pine trees as part of the first global effort to save this iconic species from extinction, continues Westonbirt’s vision to be a world leader in trees, inspiring people through education, engagement and conservation.

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