Plant conservation crucial to British plant breeding

Professional gardeners and nursery specialists are being called on to save some of the finest examples of British plant breeding before they become extinct.

Eureka Lily: lost from cultivation
Eureka Lily: lost from cultivation

Conservation charity Plant Heritage has released a list of 12 important garden plants that have all but disappeared, in a bid to raise awareness of the need for cultivated plant conservation. Horticulturists, plantspeople and collectors across the country helped compile the list, which includes Crocus chrysanthus 'E.A. Bowles', several Scottish-bred lilies, and the Fuchsia 'Duke of Albany'.

Plant Heritage's Threatened Plants Project actively researches and identifies such potentially-threatened cultivated plants, peer-reviews their importance from horticultural, heritage and scientific angles, and seeks them out to conserve them.

The plight of the rare plants is also being highlighted to the public through a collaboration with Furniture Village. Plant Heritage chief executive Sarah Quarterman said that once a plant is gone "sadly it is gone forever".

"We are grateful to Furniture Village for their support in publicising our campaign to find examples of endangered garden plants which represent the plant breeding heritage of the UK and Ireland. Plant Heritage seeks to conserve the diversity of our cultivated plants and through this campaign we hope to raise awareness of the need for cultivated plant conservation with the gardeners of Britain.

To report a sighting of a plant on the list contact

The disappeared dozen - Plants that may no longer be found in the UK

The 12 garden plants thought lost are:

Crocus chrysanthus ‘E.A. Bowles’. Named after legendary plantsman Edward Augustus Bowles, this golden crocus variety has seemingly disappeared from cultivation, much to the dismay of those who cherish his memory. The last recorded possession of ‘E.A. Bowles’ was in 1984, but the plant has since disappeared from the trade, and apparently from gardens too.

Crocus chrysanthus ‘E.A. Bowles’

Four varieties of Mylnefield Lily: ‘Adonis’, ‘Invergowrie’, ‘Eureka’, ‘Pandora North’. Mylnefield Lilies were bred in the mid-20th century by Scottish plantsman Christopher North, head of the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute, and are a renowned part of Scottish horticultural heritage. Four different Mylnefield Lilies are feared to be lost from cultivation.  ‘Invergowrie’, of which no pictures or drawings are known to exist, is described in the International Register as being ‘purplish pink’ and strongly recurved.

Mylnefield Lily ‘Pandora North’

Mylnefield Lily: ‘Adonis’

Three varieties of Cedric Morris Iris: ‘Benton Rubeo’, ‘Benton Oberon’, ‘Benton Ophelia’. Cedric Morris, an artist and horticulturalist, bred and named 90 irises in the mid-20th century. Less than half are known to survive within National Plant Collections and some may still grow in gardens around the country. Along with ‘Benton Oberon’, ‘Benton Rubeo’ (named after Morris’ pet macaw) is described as "A fine red plicata; standards strawberry roan on a cream ground, falls pale ivory (or primrose) edged with red-purple."
Benton Ophelia is only known to be pink.

Cedric Morris Iris ‘Benton Oberon’ - image: from a 1959 gardening magazine

Four varieties of Fuchsia; Fuchsia ‘Duke of Albany’, ‘James Welch’, ‘Mr Hooper Taylor’ and ‘Mrs Hooper Taylor’. All four cultivars have been lost from cultivation for a long time – some for many decades. The ‘Duke of Albany’ fuchsia is described as having a red tube and sepal, and a rich purplish-red corolla. The ‘James Welch’ is a single red and purple fuchsia: "Its tube is Bright Rosy Red, its sepals are bright rosy red and reflexed while the corolla is pale maroon shaded bright purple".

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