Benmore horticulturists return from fieldtrip to British Columbia

Benmore horticulturists Neil McCheyne and David Gray have just returned from a fieldtrip to British Columbia during which they collected valuable seed and plant material to aid with conservation and research programmes.

Neil (52), who is Garden Supervisor at Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon, and his Senior Horticulturist colleague David (50), were joined on the three week trip by Robert Jamieson of Howick Hall Gardens, Northumberland.

During their 2,000 mile trip their main focus was on conifers, and they successfully collected seed from a variety of species including the grand Fir, Abies grandis and mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana.  The resultant plants will be used to complement and expand collections at Benmore and the other three Gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).

Neil explained: “During our trip to British Columbia we travelled on the mainland including the Sunshine and Gulf Coasts, as well as other areas such as Texada Island, Denman Island and Vancouver Island, so we collected in areas with varying climates and topography. That means that plants from the seed we collected will grow better in certain areas than others, so it will be interesting to discover which plants suit which of RBGE’s four sites.’’

The team collected alpine material which will be used to complement the world-famous alpine collections at the Edinburgh Garden. Neil and David also brought back dried plant specimens for RBGE’s Herbarium Collection and took conifer samples for DNA analysis.

Neil, who has previously carried out fieldwork in Russia, Turkey, Nepal and China, said he had contacted the University of British Columbia Botanic Garden prior to the trip and that the assistance the group had received from them had been outstanding. He said colleagues from the university had accompanied them on the field trip to pinpoint good collecting sites and also helping with identifying plants not familiar to them. Also, in many places they visited they were given overnight accommodation by Friends of the University. Neil said the experience underscored the importance of collaboration between different institutions and how effective working together was a two-way stream with all partners benefitting.

 Neil will be giving a talk about the trip to British Columbia following a guided winter walk at the Garden on Thursday, 16 February. Visit www.rbge.org.uk/benmore for further details.

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)