What we do

The Perthshire Conifer Conservation Programme (previously called the iCONic Project) restores Perthshire's Victorian-designed landscapes and protects some of the world's most threatened conifers through conservation measures here in Scotland.  We do this by collecting seeds from trees threatened in the wild, growing them on into young trees and working with helpful local landowners and managers to plant them in safe-havens in the forests, gardens and estates of Perthshire Big Tree Country.

Why we do it

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 like David Douglas and Archibald Menzies who travelled all over the world to bring back new and exotic species of trees and plants to embellish the estates of their employers.  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 One. Many of the gardeners who 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. 

Luckily, some survive and, since 2010, PCCP began planting the next generation of Big Trees, supporting and continuing the important legacy of those who went before us. 

How it works

The PBTC Conifer Conservation Programme is a partnership between PKCT, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Scottish Forestry.

Through RBGE’s International Conifer Conservation Programme, PKCT’s Conservation Officer or RBGE staff collect seeds from threatened conifer species from all over the world. The species and their exact origin are carefully recorded. The seeds are then grown into small trees at RBGE's nursery in Edinburgh before being planted out in safe havens in Perthshire. 

Importantly, the trees planted through the programme are not just helping to regenerate public parks, forests and gardens of Perthshire, they also contribute to an international effort to save some of the world’s most threatened trees. 

To date, some 1400 conifers of more than 80 different species have been planted, with plans to do more as suitable sites are identified and seed material is available. The performance of those already planted is closely mapped and monitored, and the data collected help ongoing research into future conifer conservation.  All the species on which the project focuses are recognised by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as being threatened in their native habitat to some degree, some seriously so.

Of the world's 615 conifer species, 211 (34%) are threatened by many issues, including climate change, development, the spread of agriculture, dams, mining, fire and disease. One day it is hoped that seeds from these special trees growing in Perthshire can be returned to the countries from which they came to help regenerate the valuable native forests there.