West Briton – Duchy College Rosewarne aiming to save Rhododendron species in “Great British Garden Revival”

SCIENTISTS at Duchy College Rosewarne are hoping they will be able to help protect a critically endangered species of plant.

The team is working with the National Trust and The Lost Gardens of Heligan to grow new rhododendrons from the buds of some of the rarest varieties that have become threatened by disease.

They hope to cultivate them into strong plants, ready to repopulate parks and gardens.

Ros Smith, laboratory manager at Duchy College Rosewarne, said: “This work is of national importance, a lot of the plants we are working with were original introductions to this country from the 1850s and there are also some rare hybrids and some unique plants that are under threat for a number of different reasons. What we’re trying to do is to conserve the plants from various threats such as disease, climate change and old age.

“We are working with the buds of the plant, taking out the individual flowers and planting them in a food gel which helps them to form new shoots and then after a few years of growth we can then look to transfer them into pots and put them into the greenhouses.”

Research by Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh shows that a quarter of rhododendron species are under threat in the wild.

The BBC has recently filmed at Duchy College Rosewarne for an episode of the Great British Garden Revival due to be screened on Wednesday.