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vert bar Investigating Rare Willows in Ireland – Remnants of an Arctic Past

Colin Kelleher (National Botanic Gardens)
Last updated: 8th January 2009

Project Background

Arctic-alpines represent less than 2% of the Irish flora and have restricted distributions mainly in northern and western mountains. The arctic-alpine habitats in Ireland are under threat due to climate change and the prediction is that they will be greatly diminished or completely altered within this century. These species are assumed to have survived through periods of dramatic climate change (i.e. warming after the last glacial maximum), so their provenance and history holds valuable information. Many of these species are at the edge of their range in Ireland.

A male plant of
Salix herbacea
The Ben Bulben range Living collections of
Salix phylicifolia in the NBG

Project Aims:

This project is focusing on two rare Salix species found in arctic-alpine habitats in Ireland; Salix herbacea and Salix phylicifolia. The project is assessing the conservation status of the willows based on ecology, population demographics and genetic diversity. Cuttings have been taken for each species for propagation in the National Botanic Gardens in order to maintain ex-situ populations of a range of genotypes and to use in native plant educational displays. Population structure is being investigated using microsatellite markers (right). Estimates of clone size and geographical spread of genotypes are being assessed to aid effective conservation of the species.

Project Staff and Partners

Colin Kelleher (National Botanic Gardens) with part funding from the The Heritage Council.