Bumper year for gathering native seed

Rowan, birch and raspberries are just some of the native tree and shrub seeds that we have been collecting at Quinag, Schiehallion and Skye

Schiehallion rowan lr detail

This autumn sees the Trust’s land team using their training and specially-bought equipment to make our final deposit into Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank via the UK National Seed Project.

Quinag conservation officer Romany Garnett started collecting wych elm seeds earlier in the year: “Their seeds are enclosed in papery shells and grow in clusters and are quite difficult to collect because they overhang into steep gullies and burns. Right now I am collecting downy birch seeds and rowan."

The team record a grid reference for each tree, so they revisit the same one each time. After a poor harvest last year, there was a bumper crop of rowan berries this time - possibly due to the mild spring.

Schiehallion manager Liz Auty said: “The rowan trees are bursting with fruit! We have had two dry days for the collecting, which was especially important for the birch seeds.”

Downy birch seeds can be fiddly to collect said Romany: “They grow in small seed pods sometimes fall to the ground as soon as you touch them. I have only three trees to go, before I can label this batch up and ship it to Kew. Next I'm collecting honeysuckle and holly."

Skye conservation officer Sarah Lewis has also been busy. She collected wych elm seeds in June and recently enjoyed gathering raspberries from “a tightly woven patch of young willow, birch, fern, heather and blackberries, accompanied by the warming hum of bees busy nectaring and Scotch Argus butterflies daintily probing - it’s so great to see the broadleaf regeneration coming through in the area around Dun Ringill.”

All three agreed that the project has been worthwhile. Romany said: “It is good to know the genetic stock from these remote trees will be stored and used in the future.”

Liz concluded: “We hope that the project and the information collected will help raise the profile of our threatened native trees as well as provide useful genetic information to ensure their survival in the face of the many challenges they face in the future from disease and climate change."

Liz Auty's picture shows rowan trees weighed down with bright red berries at Schiehallion