Plant conservation in action

See the following popular and treasured garden plants kept in cultivation through plant conservation measures.

Cosmos atrosanguineus (chocolate cosmos)

This is an attractive, popular chocolate-scented garden plant, but it is also believed to be extinct in the wild. It was first discovered, in Mexico, in the 1860s and has been in cultivation since then, but has not been re-found in the wild, though plants are now being reintroduced from micropropagated material at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Until recently, all the plants in cultivation were thought to be a single clone, that was self-incompatible, and therefore no seeds were set.

A fertile selection called ‘Pinot Noir’ has now been introduced to cultivation from New Zealand and is protected in most countries by Plant Breeders’ Rights.

Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Fiona Coghill’

While undertaking research for her National Plant Collection of Leucanthemum x superbum, Lady Etain Hagart-Alexander of Mauchline, Ayrshire became particularly interested in a cultivar by the name of ‘Fiona Coghill’. The plant had originally been raised nearby in Kilmacolm, Ayrshire, by a Mr Jimmy Whittock, School Caretaker of the Kilmacolm Primary School, and named after his granddaughter. The catalogue description of ‘large, fully double flowers’ did not help much with identification, but further details describing ‘the whiteness of the petals accented by the small, greenish centre’ did distinguish the flower as being unusual.

Further enquiries around Scotland to find this cultivar were unsuccessful, so Lady Etain continued her enquiries in Ireland, where Slieve Donard had first marketed the plant in the 1960s. Eventually, Reg Maxwell of Belfast Botanic Garden (and Area Co-ordinator for Plant Heritage) made contact with Philip Woods, who had been in charge of the propagation of ‘Fiona Coghill’ while working for Slieve Donard. Attracted by the plant, Philip had grown it in his own garden and, as a result, nearly seven years after starting on her quest, an offset was obtained from Philip by Lady Etain to grow on in her National Plant Collection.

Now Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Fiona Coghill’ is commercially available once more and listed by 27 nurseries in the RHS Plant Finder 2013.

Ramosmania rodriguesii

The Café marron is a highly decorative plant that can flower continuously for many months, with creamy white flowers all along the branches. It is also a critically endangered Rodrigues endemic that had been though to be lost, but a single specimen was then discovered in the early 1980s. Cuttings were flown to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in a joint conservation project with IUCN and the Mauritian Forestry Commission. After propagation problems, cuttings were eventually rooted with some being repatriated to Rodrigues.

More recently the self-incompatability mechanisms have been successfully bypassed and fruits with viable seeds have been produced. Seeds have been placed in the Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place to help prevent extinction in the longer term. Other seeds have been germinated in-vitro to enable mass production of plants from a wider gene pool. Some of these will also be re-introduced to Rodrigues.


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.