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    Rare Black Poplar trees planted on Harper Adams Future Farm

    Posted 27 March

    “These trees will make a difference – in the hedgerow they are planted in, on the Harper Adams Future Farm, to our local community – and as part of UK-wide work to reintroduce a native species."

    Professor Ken Sloan, Dr Julia Casperd and Mark Hall planting one of the Black Poplars on Buttery Hill on the Harper Adams Future Farm.

    Professor Ken Sloan, Dr Julia Casperd and Mark Hall planting one of the Black Poplars on Buttery Hill on the Harper Adams Future Farm.

    Black Poplars have been planted on the Harper Adams University Future Farm as part of a wider programme of re-introduction of the rare trees to the UK.

    The plants are four of only 7,000 pure bred trees which are left in the UK, and came to Harper Adams via the Chester Zoo Black Poplar project.

    Two pairs of trees – both male and female – were planted by Grounds Manager Mark Hall on the Harper Adams estate, with help from Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan and Lecturer in Wildlife Conservation, ELM and Zoology Dr Julia Casperd.

    The trees are one of only 30 native UK species and have grown increasingly rare as pure bred trees.

    Dr Casperd said: “The planting of these trees is significant as many black poplars planted in the UK are hybrids  between Populus nigra, the Black Poplar and Populus deltoides, the American Eastern Cottonwood.

    “For the Black Poplar trees to reproduce both male and females are required within a certain proximity – but there are only 300 females left in the UK.

    “There is an issue of hybridisation which is putting the pure-bred population at risk.”

    The trees planted on the Harper Adams estate were propagated from pure-bred trees at Chester Zoo. It is hoped that, in years to come as they mature, they can be used to propagate their own clones and keep building stocks of Black Poplar across the country.

    Dr Casperd added: “Planting these trees supports our native biodiversity which, in turn, supports the resilience of our landscape.

    “One of the benefits of the black poplar is as a wildlife habitat, especially for invertebrates such as longhorn beetles, bark beetles, flies, moth larvae - including the Poplar Hawk Moth, and bugs.

    “As a long-lived tree, it provides a place for many generations of birds to roost and breed.

    “Owls and woodpeckers nest in holes in black poplars, jackdaws and other birds use the tree as a roost site, and birds such as finches eat the seeds. The tree’s catkins, as flowers, provide a source of pollen for bees, and honeybees have been known to build nests in hollow branches.”

    Professor Ken Sloan, who joined both Julia and Mark for the planting, added: “These trees will make a difference – in the hedgerow they are planted in, on the Harper Adams Future Farm, to our local community – and as part of UK-wide work to reintroduce a native species.

    “I’m very pleased to see them planted – and to know that they will be an important part of the landscape for years to come.”

    Dr Casperd added: “In five years it would be anticipated that we will have harvested seeds and cultivated some pure-bred black poplars that could be planted at the Future Farm - but also donated to neighbouring Shropshire Farms.

    “They could be used - as they have been in the past - to make bowls, flooring, baskets and fence poles.

    “In a hundred years, we hope that Black Poplars will exist in a connected landscape which would facilitate cross fertilisation and thus a resilient Black Poplar population and associated assemblage fauna, especially insects and birds.

    “In this way we will have helped to sustain the function of ecosystems - which will also have a positive impact on agricultural production and food security.”

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