Japanese rarities find haven in UK
9 November 2011
British gardeners are unwittingly providing a refuge for some of the rarest and most threatened plants in Japan, according to a new report by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).
Some of our most popular garden plants, such as Magnolia stellata, Kirengeshoma palmata, Cornus kousa var. chinensis and Lilium speciosum are among a list of plants the report discovered being widely grown here yet under serious threat in the wild in Japan.
In all, over 350 species from the Red List of Japanese plants endangered in their native habitats are growing in UK gardens, of which 106 are not in Japanese botanical collections. Two of the species, the invasive shrub Flemingia strobilifera and the fern Hypolepis tenuifolia, are believed extinct in Japan yet have been discovered alive and well in British botanic gardens.
Among the gardens growing the highest number of threatened Japanese plants are RHS Garden Wisley, which holds 87 species listed as under threat in Japan. Others include the Cambridge and Oxford University Botanic Gardens, and Exbury Gardens in Hampshire.
The long tradition of plant hunting over the last few centuries has been credited with the existence of many of Japan's rarest plants in the UK, although over-collection is also one of the factors contributing to their decline in native habitats. Japan is considered a biodiversity hotspot for plants, with about 7,000 native species of which 40% are endemic.
The report's authors are calling for collaboration between UK and Japanese gardens to protect collections and help in conservation efforts to return endangered species to the wild.