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Propagating unique Falkland Islands plants

Kit Strange
17 February 2011
Kit Strange from Kew's Hardy Display Section has recently returned from the Falkland Islands, where she worked with partners from Falklands Conservation on the continuing development of a collection of native plants.

Introducing the Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands are one of the UK Overseas Territories, located in the South Atlantic Ocean, almost 500 km to the east of South America. They have about 170 different species of native plants, 13 of them found nowhere else in the world. The native plant propagation initiative will encourage gardeners and horticulturists on the island to grow their own unique plants rather than relying on exotic ornamental species. In the past, introduced garden plants have sometimes become invasive, threatening the islands’ natural vegetation. Kew’s UK Overseas Territories team works with Falklands Conservation and other partners, studying the vegetation and investigating the threats it faces, particularly from invasive plants and from grazing animals.

Conserving plant life

Kit Strange, who works within Kew’s Hardy Display Section, has recently returned from the Falkland Islands, where she worked with partners from Falklands Conservation on the continuing development of a collection of native plants. These will then be available for sale to island gardeners via the Stanley Growers Garden Centre. Here are some excerpts from the programme of activities whilst she was there:

"Today I worked with Cynthia Williams at Stanley Growers Nursery to prick out some seedlings that have germinated since she sowed the last batch of seed from the Millennium Seed Bank. These included Falkland woolly ragwort (Senecio littoralis), button weed (Leptinella scariosa), wild celery (Apium australe), marsh daisy (Symphiotrichum vahlii), Falkland rock cress (Phlebolobium maclovianum), Moore’s plantain (Plantago moorei) and prickly burr (Acaena magellanica). They were all quite big plants already.

Falklands woolly ragwort seedlings (Image: RBG Kew)

"Yesterday, Cynthia and I looked at some of the plants which are more difficult to germinate. We sowed some primula seed (Primula magellanica), which needs light to germinate, so we put a piece of glass on the top of the tray to let light through whilst keeping the seeds moist. For the fern spores, we used pine-needles to increase the soil acidity and keep the roots cool.

After sowing, tall fern (Blechnum magellanicum) spores are covered with pine needles (front right). The round pot contains seeds of Viola maculata which is already much in demand from island gardeners. (Image: RBG Kew)

"We also collected seed from emerald bog  (Colobanthus subulatus). This is a particularly difficult seed to collect – we had to use tweezers. Last week, we potted up 100 cuttings of fachine (Chiliotrichum diffusum) and a hundred of Christmas bush (Baccharis magellanica).

The painstaking process of collecting seed of Colobanthus subulatus  (Image: RBG Kew)

"While I’m here, I am giving a science lesson at the school and a talk to the Falklands’ Horticultural Society about growing the native and endemic species. Rebecca Upson from Falklands Conservation is also taking me to Mount Challenger to get some shield fern (Polystichum mohrioides) so that we can try growing this from spores. This shield fern is only found on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia (another UK Overseas Territory)."

- Pat -

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