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31 July 2013

City’s wildflower seeds collected by Kew

Wildflower seeds from Bevendean Down have been gathered and safely stored in the Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to preserve them for future generations.

The seeds were collected by experts from Kew working alongside Brighton & Hove City Council’s countryside team.

The project aims to collect seed from the country’s best downland sites to create new wildflower sites in the city centre as well as providing seed to the Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst Place in Ardingly.

The seeds were collected with a special ‘brush harvester’ machine which brushes the top of the meadow to knock the seeds out and catch them

As well as using the brush harvester, volunteers have been hand harvesting seed that cannot be collected mechanically, from a variety of sites around the city. They include a variety of native orchids which require specialist techniques to grow.

The council has been working with the farmer and the Friends of Bevendean Down for 20 years and site was the first chalk grassland area where sheep grazing was re-introduced.

“We are delighted that Kew has recognised how good the site is and have targeted it to use for seed collection for the Millennium Seed Bank,” said Brighton & Hove City Council Leader Jason Kitcat. “It’s a fitting tribute to the hard work and team effort of the farmer, Friends group and the council’s countryside team.”

Seed collected is being shared by the Millennium Seed Bank, and the council’s nursery at Stanmer Park where it is being grown on with the help of a group of specially recruited volunteers, to produce plug plants and create further wildflower areas in the city centre as well as for sale to the public, see www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/StanmerNursery

Kew’s Ted Chapman, Coordinator of UK Native Seed Hub at Wakehurst added: “Bevendean is a beautiful and botanically rich site - we counted over 60 plant species in just a short walk through the site.

“Unlike much of our remaining chalk grassland it is also relatively accessible, so is a perfect source of local-origin seed to support conservation and habitat restoration in Brighton and the South Downs.”

“The seed collected from Bevendean is now at Wakehurst, and is spread in the drying barn. I’m delighted with the quality of the collections - much the best we have made to date. “

Bevendean Down forms part of the South Downs Nature Improvement Area (NIA) project. (Nature Improvement Areas are landscape-scale initiatives to improve ecological connectivity and reverse the decline in biodiversity across England.)

The South Downs project is among a national network of 12 NIA’s chosen by DEFRA .