The Sainsbury Orchid Conservation Project:
Propagation for Conservation
Fifty orchid species are known in wild situations in the British Isles today. Approximately a third of these are thought to be threatened and ten species are protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
Several species have populations of less than one hundred individuals, and their natural distribution has been further disrupted in the last 50 years by changes in land use, including drainage of marshes and increased use of fertilisers. The rarest species must be the lady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) which through over collection is now reduced to a single flowering individual. The fen orchid (Liparis loeselii) is severely threatened in both Britain and Europe due to the drainage of its habitat of dune slack and fen. One way of protecting wild orchids is to learn how to grow them well in cultivation and to propagate them in order to supplement and extend the natural populations.
The Sainsbury Orchid Conservation Project was initiated in 1983 at the
Micropropagation Unit at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with the generous
backing of Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury. The intention was to grow British
and European orchids from seeds, using laboratory and greenhouse techniques,
and then re-establish plants at safe sites in the wild.