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A project to save juniper from extinction on the North York Moors is toasting a major milestone.
The tree – which had become the region's rarest by the 1990s in a decline that has baffled Forestry Commission experts – has had a new lease of life with nearly 1,000 new bushes taking root, mainly in Cropton Forest and Bumble Wood, near Pickering.
The seeds of revival were laid by Charles Critchley, a former wildlife ranger with the Forestry Commission.
He took cuttings from four wizened old bushes in Cropton and propagated them in his garden before planting them out in the wilds. Some of these trees planted over 15 years ago are now two metres tall. Further cuttings were nurtured in a joint project with the Helmsley Wall Garden.
Brian Walker, Wildlife Officer with the Forestry Commission, said:
“The trees are in good health and getting nearly 1,000 specimens to take root is a great achievement. But the key is whether these bushes will regenerate naturally. That’s no easy matter for a juniper as both male and female trees are needed to produce off spring. And even when fertilised seed does reach the ground it may not germinate for another three years.”
Reasons speculated for the juniper’s decline - which has occured widely across the north - include climate change and altered patterns of land management. But its revival will be welcomed by more than just nature fans.
Brian Walker adds:
“Juniper has no commercial value as a timber tree, but its berries are used to flavour gin. The species has a truly amazing following, perhaps because of its romantic name and its alcoholic connections.”
Notes to Editor
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit www.forestry.gov.uk/yorkshireandthehumber
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE FORESTRY COMMISSION BY RICHARD DARN, COI, LEEDS. TEL: 0113 3466085. MOBILE 0775 367 0038.