Landscapers called upon to help halt decline in native flora

Heritage body calls for stop on use of foreign seed as study reveals 20 per cent decline in native plants

Landscapers of new roads are being blamed for the decline of 20 per cent of British flora. The Vascular Plant Red Data List, released this week, analyses all UK flora for the first time. It shows 345 out of 1,756 taxa are threatened. The list follows two years of research by botanists, co-ordinated by government wildlife advisory body the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Scottish Natural Heritage species adviser Lynne Farrell said the decline was due to habitat loss through road building, spraying, ploughing, forestry, housing and climate change. The spreading of foreign seed on road verges is wiping out native species, she added. Farrell said the horticulture trade can help by supporting events hosted by conservation groups such as Flora Locale to promote the supply, specification and use of native flora for landscape projects. There will be a Flora Locale event on 19 May at Scotia Seeds, Angus, Scotland. Scotia owner Giles Laverack suggested three ways to help: Stop importing seed from outside the UK, which is “still a widespread practice”. Use seed of local origin for local projects within the UK. Stop using agricultural cultivars of plants such as Lotus corniculatus. UK area sales manager Jayne Leyland of grass seed breeder Barenbrug said that landscape architects were specifying the cheapest, lowest-maintenance mix available, or no mix at all. Farrell said gardeners could help by making collections of native plants. Growers could collect seed from native plants, such as Gentianella campestris. She called for the National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens to encourage the keeping of native plant collections. NCCPG plant conservation officer Ros Johnson said: “We would welcome more collections of properly managed, native plants to complement those already registered.” For the full list of species, see www.jncc.gov.uk/page-3354.

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