Royal Botanic Gardens Kew visit Hollybed Common

Seeds collected from Hollybed Common near Welland have been added to Royal Botanic Garden Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank in an effort to secure the future of a scarce plant.

In October 2023, Jenny Peach and Steph Miles from the UK Threatened Flora Team visited Hollybed Common to collect seeds of Slender Hare’s Ear, Bupleurum tenuissimum.

The UK Threatened Flora Project, is funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and aims to conserve the flora at risk in the UK by collecting seeds to be stored in the Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

On a sunny afternoon on the Commons, more than 13,000 seeds were collected from this local population as part of the project.  The seeds will now be stored in the collection indefinitely and will be available for research and conservation in the future.

Beck Baker, Community and Conservation Officer said “We’re extremely excited to have been part of this fantastic project and helping to secure the future of some of the country’s rarest flora.  Careful management of the Commons over a number of years by Malvern Hills Trust in partnership with local commoners has created a biodiverse habitat where species such as the Slender Hare’s Ear survive.”

Numbers of Slender Hare’s Ear in the UK have declined over recent years as grasslands are manged too intensively or lose grazing altogether. The populations at Hollybed Common and other sites on Castlemorton, which are grazed year-round by sheep and cattle, continue to thrive with this careful management. 

The UK Threatened Flora Project has been running since 2020 and as this phase of the project comes to an end, 103 seed collectors have been involved, collecting nearly 4.9 million seeds from over 200 taxa. The work will continue to ensure the UK’s plant diversity is conserved in the Millennium Seed Bank.

Jennifer Peach, UK Threatened Flora Project Officer said “It was fantastic to see Slender Hare’s Ear thriving in the Malvern Hills last year when many populations in other parts of the UK are struggling. The seeds are now safely conserved in the Millennium Seed Bank’s -20°C vaults and will be available for future use in conservation and research if required. The support of landowners and land managers is vital for our work so a huge thank you to the Malvern Hills Trust for making this collection possible.

Grazing is an essential part of the conservation of the Malvern Hills and Commons landscape.  Securing the future of conservation grazing, for the survival of scarce species such as the Slender Hare’s Ear, is something the Trust are looking to address through a Private Bill.