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The Jersey Orchid Recovery Programme - An Opportunity for Education?

Contributed by Margaret Ramsay, Grace Prendergast, Junko Oikawa, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, UK.

Introduction

The Living Collection Department at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has responsibilities for:

  • conservation and cultivation of its collection of plants
  • public education, which is addressed through the dissemination of horticultural skills and knowledge both directly and indirectly.

Direct education is carried out by interpreting the diversity of the plant kingdom through displays of the living collections within the Gardens, in association with the Education Department at Kew. Indirect education is carried out by collaborating with in situ conservation projects for local vegetation, such as habitat restoration and species recovery projects, in order to encourage education at a local level. A recovery programme for a native orchid in Jersey is one example of a collaborative project in which Kew has been involved.

A Recovery Programme for Orchis laxiflora in Jersey

Orchis laxiflora, the lax-flowered or Jersey orchid, although relatively common in Europe, does not occur in mainland Britain. It is found, however, on a few sites in the Channel Islands. Its wild habitats, normally wet grassland and marshes, have been rapidly destroyed; many Jersey orchids have also disappeared because of serious pressure from modern farming practice and other local development.

Orchis laxiflora was one of the first orchid species to be raised symbiotically from seed by the Sainsbury Orchid Conservation Project at Kew. Following the success of ex situ conservation by propagation in the laboratory and planting trials in the Gardens, a recovery programme to raise plants from native seeds for re-establishment on a former site in Jersey was initiated by a request from the States of Jersey Planning and Environmental Committee.

Seed capsules were collected from the wild in 1992 and the seeds were sown symbiotically in the laboratory under sterile conditions. The vigorous plants raised were weaned in one of Kew's glasshouses. In March 1996, 39 dormant tubers were taken back to Jersey to plant out into the former site, next to a rural museum at Hamptonne. Jersey orchids had been observed there eight years previously, but had not been seen since. The planting was carried out by a member of staff from Kew, volunteers from a local naturalists group and a representative from the States of Jersey Planning and Environmental Committee. Since planting, these plants are growing well and are expected to flower in the near future.

Local Activities and Education

The local newspaper and radio in Jersey have reported on this project and its progress. The newly-built education centre on the site has been used for interpretation to give more information to the public. The children from a local school have also become involved in recording the orchid populations.

Local activities have just started. It is hoped that this venture will have a strong educational value through encouraging the interest of the local people in their native plants, and bringing their attention to the role of re-establishing and augmenting populations. In addition, it is also hoped that taking pressure off the main site for these orchids will allow the natural environment on the island to be sustained.

Conclusion

Biodiversity conservation can be addressed in many different ways and at a variety of levels. Botanic gardens are ideally placed to practise and promote biodiversity conservation both in situ and ex situ. One of the critical parts of a conservation strategy is the challenge for botanic gardens to educate people to have greater environmental concern as well as increased knowledge of how the natural world functions. These educational needs can be met by integrating knowledge, experience and techniques in the fields of horticulture, science, management and education; all important components of the mission of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to Mr. Mike Freeman of the States of Jersey Planning and Environmental Committee and the Botany Section of the Societe Jersiaise for their invaluable help. We also wish to thank to the family of Mrs. Frances Le Sueur for the use of her photographs, and Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury for their generous support of the Orchid Conservation Project.

   

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