Leicester conservation project to save threatened wildflowers from extinction

A new project at our University hopes to save rare and threatened local wildflowers from across Leicestershire and Rutland from extinction.

With support from the Friends of the Garden, the Botanic Garden has set up Genebank55, which focuses on plants throughout Leicestershire and Rutland, vice-county number 55. A vice-county is a geographical division of the British Isles used for the purposes of biological recording.

The project aims to store seeds from the rarest species of local wildflower from the surviving populations in a deep freeze, helping to conserve them for future repopulation.

Data assembled by the plant conservation charity Plantlife suggests that on average, two plant species are lost from Leicestershire’s countryside every three years.

Anna Farrell, Research Curator at the Botanic Garden, said: “A local genebank can make concerted and highly targeted efforts to conserve locally rare and scarce species. Every population varies from another in its genetic make-up, and it is important to conserve seed from these genetically different, locally adapted populations.

“Preserving local genetic diversity may be needed for future research and, of course, for the purpose of any reintroduction that may be planned for the future. There are also educational, social and aesthetic aspects that add to the value that comes from having a locally biodiverse countryside.”

It is hoped that Genebank55 will be fully operational by summer 2017.

The project will run with the cooperation and partnership of Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust.

Countryfile clip about Genebank55 (from January 2018):