The Perthshire Big Tree Country (PBTC) Conifer Conservation Programme (previously called the iCONic Project) is helping to protect some of the world's most threatened conifers from extinction. We do this in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh by collecting seeds from trees threatened in their natural habitat, growing these seeds into young trees, and planting them in safe havens in the forests, gardens and estates of Perthshire Big Tree Country.
There are c.650 species of conifer in the world. Over one third of these are threatened with extinction in their natural habitats. Species as familiar as the Monkey Puzzle and Giant Redwood are suffering the impacts of threats such as logging, habitat loss and climate change.
With the world’s forests under unprecedented threat, ex-situ conservation - conserving species in dedicated collections away from their natural habitat - is an important part of any holistic conservation strategy. Perthshire is one of the best places in the UK and Ireland to grow many of the world’s threatened conifer species.
At the start of the Victorian era, just 2% of Perthshire was covered in forest, but this all changed when the landowners of the time discovered a passion for planting trees. This passion was fuelled by ‘Plant Hunters’ - bold adventurers that travelled all over the world to bring back new and exotic species of trees and plants to Britain to embellish estates and gardens. Many of Perthshire’s most spectacular trees, such as the huge Giant Redwood which grows in the gardens of Cluny House, were planted at this time.
This amazing era of planting ended with the start of World War I. Many of the gardeners that had cared for these wonders lost their lives in the war, and things changed forever. Many of the beautiful forest gardens and tree collections were neglected as there was no one left to care for them and many trees were lost to storms and old age.
However, in 2010 we began changing this with the foundation of the PBTC Conifer Conservation Programme and getting the planting of the next generation of big trees underway. By conserving conifer species in Perthshire, we are also helping to conserve some of Perthshire’s most treasured landscapes.
The PBTC Conifer Conservation Programme is a partnership between PKCT, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Forestry Commission Scotland.
Through RBGE’s International Conifer Conservation Programme, PKCT’s Tree Officer collects seeds of rare and threatened conifer species from all over the temperate world. These seeds are then grown into small trees at the RBGE Nursery before being planted out in safe havens in the forests, gardens and estates of Perthshire.
The trees planted through the PBTC Conifer Conservation Programme are not just helping to regenerate the forest gardens of Perthshire, they are also contributing to an internationally important effort to save some of the world’s most threatened trees.
To date, over 900 trees have been planted through the programme with the goal of 2,000 planted by 2018. Their performance will be closely monitored, and the data we collect will to aid ongoing research into conifer conservation. All the species on which the project is focussing are recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as being threatened in their native habitat.
One day it is hoped that material from the trees growing in Perthshire can be returned to the countries from which they came to regenerate the native forests there.
Find out about what happens behind the scenes from seed collecting to tree planting.Read more
A 2013 trip to Chile to collect seeds from the Chilean Plum Yew (Prumnopitys andina), Ciprés de las Guaitecas’ (Pilgerodendron uviferum) and the Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides).Read more
A 2013 trip to Japan top collect Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) and Japanese Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga japonica) as well as Picea koyame and Picea maximowiczii.Read more
A 2015 trip to Morocco to collect Morocon fir (Abies pinsapo) and Atlas cedar (Cedrus Atlantica).Read more
A 2016 trip to Bhutan to aid in the conservation of their national holy tree, the Tsenden.Read more