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Saving England’s lowland Juniper

(c) Matt Pitts

An ambitious project designed to prevent native Juniper from becoming extinct launched during 2021/22 when Plantlife joined forces with landowners, supported by Natural England, to revitalise the shrub across southern England.

The 10-year-programme, which received year one funding from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and Formula Botanica, began when 48 patches of land at nine sites in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire were scraped back to create a habitat suitable for Juniper regeneration. These efforts focused on hotspots where Juniper is in rapid decline and took place in partnership with the Wylye Valley Farmers group.

Early successional habitat suitable for Juniper regeneration has been created as a result, with the land then seeded with Juniper collected from nearby bushes.

…this project has been really successful because of the way the landowners have worked together. It’s really made sense to them – individually they can do small-scale stuff, but across a landscape that makes a real difference.

Helen Pengelly, Wylye Valley Farmers Facilitator

This is the first time Juniper has been regenerated in a near-natural manner on a landscape scale anywhere in the British Isles. It comes following a successful trial, which saw more than 200 new Juniper bushes regenerate within 10 years on land scraped by Plantlife in 2009.

The bare ground will also benefit 16 threatened and scarce plant species which colonise early successional habitat, including:

  • Kidney Vetch
  • Autumn Gentian
  • Carline Thistle
  • Yellow-wort
  • Common Rock-rose
  • Fairy Flax
  • Harebell
  • Four species of orchids: Bee Orchids, Chalk Fragrant Orchids, Pyramidal Orchids and Common Spotted-orchids

Without this vital work, Juniper is likely to become extinct in lowland England within the next 50 years, in turn impacting on the species it supports, such as Goldcrest, Fieldfare and Song Thrush.

Image credits: Header image - Matt Pitts

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