Work­ing for na­ture

Sur­vey­ing rare plants, Suf­folk

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Why Anna Salt­marsh stock­piles seeds

All over the world, de­voted in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing their bit by vol­un­teer­ing to get in­volved with wildlife. Me­gan Shersby meets a woman who is sur­vey­ing plants and safe­guard­ing na­tive trees.

For the past four years, Anna Salt­marsh has col­lected seeds: “I do some­times find my­self hav­ing to ex­plain why my home is tem­po­rar­ily full of bags brim­ming with nuts or sticky berries, in some cases ac­com­pa­nied by a large sign say­ing ‘Poi­sonous – do not eat!’” she ex­claims.

Anna vol­un­teers for the UK Na­tional Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP) through Suf­folk Wildlife Trust. The scheme was launched in 2013 to col­lect and store high-qual­ity and ge­net­i­cally di­verse seed from na­tive trees and shrubs through­out the UK. Her work in­volves iden­ti­fy­ing suit­able pop­u­la­tions of tar­get species, in­clud­ing hazel and crab ap­ple, and less-fa­mil­iar species such as wild ser­vice tree and small-leaved lime. By work­ing with other vol­un­teers and landown­ers, she gath­ers seeds at the point of nat­u­ral dis­per­sal and sends them to the Mil­len­nium Seed Bank at Royal Botanic Gar­dens, Kew, to sup­port con­ser­va­tion and re­search.

“With 10 tar­get species on our list to col­lect ei­ther for the first time, or to re-col­lect due to lim­ited suc­cess in pre­vi­ous years, 2019 was our busiest year yet,” says Anna. “We aim to col­lect around 10,000 seeds from a pop­u­la­tion of each tar­get species, ide­ally sam­pled from at least 15 in­di­vid­ual mother plants [ fe­male par­ents of the seeds be­ing col­lected].”

Anna pre­vi­ously worked for Kew and the Zoological So­ci­ety of Lon­don. She re­turned to her na­tive Suf­folk from Lon­don in 2017 af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with breast cancer for the se­cond time as she needed to un­dergo treat­ment and re­cover: “I have taken the chance to gain a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the county’s land­scapes and wildlife while spend­ing more time do­ing the things I love most,” she says.

Anna’s pas­sion for flora doesn’t stop at seed col­lect­ing. She is also a Breck­land Flora Group vol­un­teer – set up by Plantlife, Nat­u­ral Eng­land and Forestry Eng­land in 2016, the group car­ries out tar­geted record­ing of the district’s rare and scarce plants. “Brecks heath­lands are a floris­ti­cally unique habitat,” she says. “Much of it was turned over to plan­ta­tion forestry and agri­cul­ture in the 20th cen­tury.”

Anna reg­u­larly vis­its lo­ca­tions within King’s For­est, her al­lo­cated record­ing site, to search for and as­sess the pop­u­la­tion size and health of species, in­clud­ing mossy stonecrop, sickle medick and na­tive grape hy­acinth.

“Vol­un­teer­ing pro­vides me the op­por­tu­nity to learn, a so­cia­ble network and a sense of iden­tity,” says Anna. “It is a priv­i­lege that I am en­joy­ing while I can.”

We aim to col­lect 10,000 seeds from a pop­u­la­tion of each species.

Anna reg­u­larly vis­its King’s For­est, Suf­folk, to look for and record plants.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.