15 May 2017

Our gin is safe!

The Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst now holds a complete collection of seeds from native juniper trees in the UK.

Clare Trivedi

By Clare Trivedi

Juniper berries

Juniper seeds safely banked

Gin, the juniper berry flavoured spirit, is having a modern-day renaissance and UK sales are booming. Kew has made 51 seed collections from populations of native juniper trees in the UK - meaning gin will always be on our drinks menus.

The UK National Tree Seed Project, set up by the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) with generous funding from the Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, has been collecting native tree seeds from across the UK since May 2013. Juniper is the first species to be collected in its entirety across Great Britain.

Working together

Scientists have undertaken the juniper collecting in collaboration with a range of partners, including Forest Research and Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust, Friends of Abernethy and North Harris Trust, who have all been fundamental in completing this collection.

The Project works on a wide range of species. In 2016 alone, it collected seeds from 30 different species, from 3,000 trees, across 59 different counties, including Shropshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon and Pembrokeshire as well as numerous sites across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

First national collection of tree seeds

Tree seeds collected as part of the project are being safely banked at -20°C in the underground vaults of the MSB, establishing the first national collection of tree seeds. By January 2016, 5.8 million individual seeds had been banked from approximately 6,500 trees. These collections can play a vital role in protecting UK trees and tackling the threats facing our woodlands today.

With pests and diseases such as Phytophthora austrocedri threatening the UK’s juniper trees, and ash dieback present in over 40% of the UK, completing a viable and genetically diverse collection of the nation’s favourite and most important tree seeds has never been more pressing.

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