National Rhododendron Collection saved by micropropagation

The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall are claiming a biological first by saving the National Collection of Rhododendron, which were were in danger of extinction from Phytophthora ramorum, through a micropropagation technique.

Rather than destroy all infected Rhododendron, Duchy College launched a pioneering micro-propagation project led by Ros Smith. It has a unique a license from Defra to propagate from infected plant material and the Heligan team micropropagated the plants and saved them from being lost.

Smith said £30,000 of Defra funding was helping to preserve 500 rare species from 30 gardens, mostly from Cornwall and including six National Trust gardens.

Many of the plants are more than 150 years old and were first brought to the UK by Victorian plant hunters such as Joseph Hooker. Visitors to Heligan will now be able to buy disease-free plants from mid-June.

Smith said: "It's very exciting to be able to use science and horticulture in such a pioneering way to save these remarkable and beautiful plants."

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