An endangered, native UK tree, the Black Poplar, has found a new home at Dove Stone. Seven specimens of the native subspecies "Betulifolia" have been planted, sourced from the Chester Zoo Horticulture and Botany department.

Most trees of this species in the wild are single individuals on boundaries and are old and fragile, meaning they haven't been regenerating naturally. Since 2002, Chester Zoo has become involved in a project propagating Black Poplars from hardwood cuttings. Leaf samples were then later taken in 2008 and DNA tested. Seven distinct clones of both male and female were found, from which the Zoo created their own stock. Many Black Poplars in the UK have been affected by disease, so genetic diversity is key for the survival of the subspecies.

From this work, the zoo now regularly takes cuttings from their home grown stock to grow on in a cold frame in their nursery. Up to 50 trees are grown each year, ready to be planted after 2 years of growth. These trees are then distributed to different organizations across the region to be planted in the wider countryside, increasing the number and spread of the species ,ensuring the future security of the Poplars.

And so earlier in January we collected 7 trees, a mixture of male and female of 4 different genetic clones. Seeing as Black Poplars are not a shade tolerant species and require a lot of space, our trees have been planted in choice locations near the main Dove Stone site. It's hoped in the years to come when the trees mature, they will reproduce naturally, adding to the genetic diversity as well as becoming an impressive feature of the Dove Stone landscape.

Black Poplars are host to a range of invertebrates and other wildlife, including the spectacular Poplar Hawkmoth and the rarer Hornet Moth. So look out for these new additions if you visit the reserve as they grow and become a fantastic feature of Dove Stones' natural heritage.

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