The Black Poplar Project aims to increase genetic diversity in the UK's rarest native hardwood tree.

Black Poplar (Populus nigra) is dioecious, meaning that its male and female reproductive organs are on separate trees. An extreme lack of female trees, combined with an increasing loss of floodplain woodland, create scant opportunity for natural regeneration. The Friends of Barnes Common is proud to be working with Black Poplar and veteran tree expert Jamie Simpson and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames on this important project. 

The collaboration was born in early 2019, when Jamie worked with Learning Manager and horticulturist, Sharon Morgan, and one of our volunteers, to collect propagation material from trees along the River Thames at Barnes – the site of a unique and important population that includes genetically diverse veteran female trees. Because of their location and spacing, they are considered likely relics of a natural population.

A total of 80 cuttings were collected from eight different clones: four male and four females, resulting in a 91.24% take rate after 12 months. In 2020, amidst floods and lockdown restrictions, our Conservation Manager Will Dartnell, Officer Will Scott-Mends and a small, dedicated team of volunteers created a temporary tree nursery for the young Year Two saplings. Jamie and Will also collected material from a further (different) set of twelve clones, seven of which are female.

Through this programme of propagation and rigorous recording, we hope to ensure genetic diversity is not lost, to identify strengths and susceptibilities in specific clones, and to strengthen a robust platform for further research.

Once viable, saplings will go on to be planted across the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, further supporting targets set in Richmond’s Biodiversity Action Plan specific to the Black Poplar.

For research and general enquiries, contact Will.

FURTHER READING

Native Black Poplar Species Action Plan 2019 – 2029

Conservation of Black Poplar: DNA Fingerprinting Approach

Barnes/Putney Black Poplar Report 

Black Poplar Statement of Importance 2012

Black Poplar General Information

LBRuT Biodiversity Action Plan

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