Conservation and interpretation of Llangollen whitebeam
The Llangollen whitebeam is one of the rarest trees in the world and confused botanists for years.
It's mainly found in Eglwyseg escarpment Denbighshire, in North East Wales. The species has a revised listing of Endangered which has been accepted for publication in the 2nd update of the IUCN Red List in 2017 and is now the focus of a collaborative conservation project.
As part of this project, Chester Zoo are growing trees using seeds obtained from the Millennium Seedbank at Kew. Originally collected from trees at Llangollen, the seeds were then kept deep frozen by seedbank. In addition of the propagation of the new trees, a comprehensive survey of the cliffs where the trees grow is also planned.
First recognized as a distinct species in 1950s and informally named as Sorbus castelli, Llangollen whitebeam was only described as new to science as Sorbus cuneifolia in 2009 by Tim Rich. Consisting of small and discrete populations, the species is inherently vulnerable to loss and has precarious chances of survival.
Conservation action includes:
- Surveying the population on the Eglwyseg to clarify the conservation status of the endemic, endangered species using drone mounted aerial photography to survey inaccessible cliffs
- Propagating the Llangollen whitebeam seeds collected in 2014 as part of the Millennium Seed Bank UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP). This species is the first UK tree for which seeds have been released through the UKNTSP for a conservation project. This project aims to propagate new trees at Chester Zoo, and make them available to botanical collections and local gardens
- Restoring the species to Castell Dinas Bran where the first tree recognised as a distinct species was found in the 1950s. Removed during the 1990s, the tree was moved to a garden in North Wales before being transferred to Chester Zoo in 2016
- Promoting the species’ conservation importance through the reestablishment of the Llangollen whitebeam at Castell Dinas Bran and Plas Newydd gardens in Llangollen
This project is currently the only initiative concerned with this rare and endemic species.