Finding lost plants

Plant conservation charities are asking gardeners to help find ‘lost plants’ before they become extinct.

Crocus chrysanthus
Crocus chrysanthus
Published on Tagged with

Cultivated plant conservation charity, Plant Heritage, has released a new list of sought-after plants that are examples of the UK’s plant-breeding heritage, but now believed to be on the cusp of extinction. The charity is now calling upon the public to search their gardens and report details of new sightings, in a bid to raise awareness of the need for cultivated plant conservation.

Plant Heritage compiled the list, in consultation with its nationwide network of horticulturists, plantsmen, and collectors. The list includes Crocus chrysanthus ‘E.A. Bowles’, named after the legendary British plant hunter and horticulturist; several highly regarded Scottish-bred lilies; and the Fuchsia ‘Duke of Albany’, dedicated to the remarkable Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria, who died tragically young.

Plant Heritage is working in partnership with Furniture Village on this new initiative, and will host details about the endangered plants, as well as guidance on what members of the public should do if they spot one, on a dedicated page on the Furniture Village website.

All discoveries, once verified by Plant Heritage, will contribute to the preservation and understanding of some of Britain’s most treasured cultivated plants.

The 12 garden plants are:

  • Crocus chrysanthus ‘E.A. Bowles’. Named after legendary plantsman Edward Augustus Bowles, this golden crocus variety has seemingly disappeared from cultivation, much to the dismay of those who cherish the memory of the great horticulturist. The last recorded possession of ‘E.A. Bowles’ was in 1984, but the plant has since disappeared from the trade, and apparently from gardens too.
  • Four varieties of Mylnefield Lily: ‘Adonis’, ‘Invergowrie’, ‘Eureka’, ‘Pandora North’. Mylnefield Lilies were bred in the mid-20th century by Scottish plantsman Christopher North, head of the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute, and are a renowned part of Scottish horticultural heritage. Four different Mylnefield Lilies are feared to be lost from cultivation.
  • Three varieties of Cedric Morris Iris: ‘Benton Rubeo’, ‘Benton Oberon’, ‘Benton Ophelia’. Cedric Morris, an artist and horticulturist, bred and named 90 irises in the mid-20th century. Less than half are known to survive within National Plant Collections and some may still grow in gardens around the country. The three varieties named above are particularly sought after.
  • Four varieties of Fuchsia; Fuchsia ‘Duke of Albany’, ‘James Welch’, ‘Mr Hooper Taylor’, ‘Mrs Hooper Taylor’. All four of these fuchsia cultivars have been lost from cultivation for a long time – some for many decades.

Sarah Quarterman, Plant Heritage’s CEO, said: “We are grateful to Furniture Village for their support in publicising our campaign to find examples of endangered garden plants which represent the plant breeding heritage of the UK and Ireland. Plant Heritage seeks to conserve the diversity of our cultivated plants and through this campaign we hope to raise awareness of the need for cultivated plant conservation with the gardeners of Britain. Once a plant is gone, sadly it is gone forever.”

To report a sighting of a plant on the list, or for more information about the plants, please contact: Collections@plantheritage.org.uk

Matt Appleby

About Matt Appleby

Matt is a former teacher turned journalist. He took up writing while in New Zealand and trained as a journalist there. He has since written five books (three on cricket and two on gardening) with The Children's Garden due out in spring 2016 published by Frances Lincoln. He writes for Horticulture Week and other publications. Married with two boys, aged 3 and 6 he lives in London.
@mattapple1
View all posts by Matt.