The following is an example of the sort of seed collecting trip that our tree team undertake
Xanthocyparis vietnamensis – the critically endangered golden conifer
In 2008, Chris Reynolds (our previous curator) and Dan Luscombe travelled to Vietnam as part of Fauna & Flora International's Global Trees Campaign, which works to save threatened trees from extinction. Their task was to offer advice and expertise to the Centre for Plant Conservation (CPC) in Hanoi on measures to conserve five rare and highly endangered conifer species, all of which have been seriously affected by logging and habitat loss, and are likely to be further threatened by climate change.
Amongst these was the Vietnamese Golden Cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis), which in 1999 became the world's most recently discovered conifer genus (its predecessor was Australia's Wollemi Pine in 1994 - only three or four new conifer species have been discovered in the last fifty years).
Chris and Dan scaled the remote limestone karst mountains to where the few remaining known Golden Cypresses are still growing (fewer than 500 individual trees in two small pockets - making it a very high priority for conservation). Here they would collect seed and make detailed observations.
On October 19th six seedlings geminated successfully (pictured) for the first time ever (since then this has increased to 18). By 2014, they will hopefully have matured enough to be planted out in the Pinetum, joining nine other Golden Cypresses grown from cuttings donated by Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and planted in 2005 - possibly the first ever planted outside Vietnam. Despite the much colder British climate, these specimens are doing well. The lessons learnt on how to germinate and grow these rare trees from seed will be shared with CPC in Vietnam to enable them to produce seedlings to reinforce populations in Vietnam and support the conservation of the species in the wild.