Kew Millennium Seed Bank at the
Centre for Stewardship in Falkland

 In 2015 our Woodland Ranger started the search for natural populations of our native tree species here in Fife

Logo of Millennium Seed Bank Partnership Kew

Kew Millennium Seed Bank

Our Fragile Woodlands Seed

The Centre For Stewardship became partners in this exciting conservation project in 2015. Our Woodland Ranger started the search for natural populations of our native tree species here in Fife. The lack of natural woodland sites around Falkland area has proved that they are surprisingly rare, and this is the same for the whole of Fife. Natural woodland sites with the desired native species that do exist are relatively small (compared to plantation forests) and disconnected from other woodlands or natural habitats, and therefore fragile. UK populations are especially at risk from recently spreading diseases and pathogens, climactic changes, and human development. Collecting herbarium samples and seed for research and storage should go some way to better understanding and saving these important tree populations.


Sites found so far are generally on quiet hillsides and field corners, even old quarries and ruins, where there has been little disturbance from agriculture or human development for 50+ years. Discovering very old and spectacular specimens of Rowan, Hawthorn, and Willow has been a great experience for the ranger and adds great value to forgotten pockets of woodland or scrub.

Younger sites have great potential too. Some clear felled plantations have regenerated naturally into young mixed woodlands of perfectly adapted species for the conditions. It goes to show that left alone this region would be covered in forest again very quickly.

Spider Elm

2015 Progress and Contributing to the Project

After surveying and researching the history of potential collecting sites, the desired trees are then monitored for seed readiness. The seeds are to be at the stage of natural dispersal to be sure of the best chance that they could be germinated under laboratory conditions.

Volunteer help with this project has been very welcome when it comes to picking and sorting seeds and berries.Our regular conservation volunteer group has been out to collect Elder berries (which were tasty too!), Rowan berries, and Hawthorn over the autumn of 2015, and we will be out looking for seed sources again soon when the first trees begin to flower in spring. New volunteers are welcome to come and help over 2016 and 2017, contact Ranger Sam Docherty . Help from landowners is greatly appreciated too, as consent must be granted before collections can be taken from any land. If you think you have a natural population of trees on your land and would like to help the project, we would be very interested in surveying the trees or woodland to assess if seed can be collected there. Again please contact Sam for more information.

International Effort

The Millennium Seed Bank has world wide collections of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers, and important domestic crops for research and as insurance against sudden extinction events. This effort has already found important uses for plant extracts, nutritional food sources, and disease resistant

“The UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP) welcomes partners and volunteers to collect seed samples of nationally important trees and shrubs from across their UK range. This project will build a national ex situ collection of UK tree seed, maintained and managed by the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB). The collection will be genetically comprehensive and comprise sufficient seeds to support research and conservation, in order to meet the challenges facing UK forests.” (Introduction from Seed Collecting Manual)

For more information:

Falkland’s links to Kew Gardens

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 1713-92, the unpopular First Minister of King George III, great grandfather of the 3rd Marquess of Bute.
The 3rd Earl was passionate for botany. He studied botany at the University in Leiden and his interest reached its peak during his directorship of Kew Gardens. Thanks to the regard he was held in the royal family, he was successful in transforming Kew Gardens into a serious botanical garden in a matter of years. However his popularity with the royal family waned in the last few decades of the 18th century and the work of his successor Joseph Banks often overshadows the hugely significant role Bute played.

By 1745 Bute was so well respected among botanists that Mark Catesby and Dr Isaac Lawson wrote to Linnaeus, father of modern taxonomy, suggesting a new North American shrub be named after the Earl. The shrub, Stewartia malacondendron, was given the old spelling of the family name and despite attempts in the 19th Century to change it to ‘stuartia’ the genus name remains the same.