The British Plants That May Wilt into History

Article excerpt


NINETEEN British plants are among thousands worldwide that face extinction, it was revealed yesterday.

They are on the first-ever global list of endangered species which has taken 15 years to compile.

Among those under threat are several unique to the UK, such as the Lundy Cabbage which clings to cliffs on the Bristol Channel island and the beautiful Arran mountain ash which has retreated to clefts in granite-banked streams on the Scottish isle.

Scientists at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge and Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and Edinburgh played a leading role in compiling the World Conservation Union's 'red list' which shows a staggering 33,000 species at risk of extinction - one in eight of all known plants, shrubs, trees and ferns on the planet.

In Britain, a curiously-named grass known as the Interrupted Brome is already extinct in the wild and is being nurtured in RBG nurseries in the hope that it can one day be returned to nature. Many other plants are confined to small marshy and rocky habitats in remote corners of England, Wales and Scotland.

Dr Mark Collins, chief executive of the monitoring centre, sees the global list as 'a call to arms'. He said: 'It reveals for the first time the pressure on plants. It is extremely serious for humanity. Many are food crops or timber vital to national economies, or important in medicine.' Although six times as many plants as animals were under threat, far more was invested in saving animals, he said. …