We were delighted to make a collection of Erigeron acer – Blue Fleabane this year. Erigeron acer is listed as endangered on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. In August this year, we received notification of a good population in a location in County Down. We were informed that it doesn’t always have a great show of flowers. So we knew we had to act quickly. Part of the reason this population survives in this area is down to light cattle grazing and rabbits. Both these animals keep the big plants in check and also help leave areas of bare sand, so seed can get into contact with it when it drops. Our contact was able to put me in touch with the landowners who kindly and quickly gave us permission. We applied to NIEA for assent and DAERA for a wildlife licence to work with the plant. We received permissions from both in a very expedient manner – many thanks to all departments.
Collecting For Conservation
We find that, like trees, flowers have mast years. It is best to collect from any population when it is producing seed in large numbers. This helps to achieve a greater spread of genetic material. On-site there were 3 distinct areas of the plants, all within a 100sq m location. From the first area we took seeds from each of 5 plants and stored them in separate envelopes. From the second area we took seeds from each of 17 plants and again stored them in separate envelopes. From the third we put the seeds from 9 plants into one collecting bag together.
Area 1: 72 plants found. Collected seed from 5 plants.
Area 2: 30 plants found. Collected seed from 17 plants.
Area 3: 20 plants found. Collected seed from 9 plants.
Seed Banking as a Living Collection
Area 1 was the uppermost site, hence more seed had blown away, meaning we made collections from less plants. The second area was lower and in a hollow of the hill, so we were able to sample a greater number of plants. Area 3, sheltered from wind by a small hill also gave us a good collection. The ENSCONET protocols we use for collecting endangered species means that the seeds from each plant are a separate accession which allows us to know the genetic spread of the collection. In future when we grow out the plants, we know which plants we are germinating seeds from.
Learn More About our Schedule 8 Species
Plants on the Northern Ireland Wildlife Schedule 8 are published on our site Save Our Schedule 8. We will be applying to DAERA for a wildlife licence to grow out some of the seeds we collected. We will use them to bulk up a collection for the seed bank. The seed in the seed bank is an invaluable resource for restoration or research purposes. If you are out and about and want to record native wildflower populations you can do so with National Biodiversity Network. This is a brilliant tool for conservation efforts as finding plant populations and monitoring when they flower and seed can be very time consuming but enjoyable when they are on your usual walking route!
Stay tuned for more exciting news and join the movement to conserve our native wildflowers for generations to come! Together, we can make a real difference.
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