Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, part of the Forestry Commission England, in Kent has sent the first seedlings of Mulanje cedar raised in the UK to be cared for by the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Bedgebury National Pinetum’s Mulanje cedar seedlings are off to a permanent home in a Mediterranean biome where they have the best chance of long term survival. The Mulanje cedar, the national tree of Malawi, is probably ‘extinct in the wild’.

Dan Luscombe, Collections Mananger at Bedgebury National Pinetum said “Fantastic progress has been made in support of the Mulanje Cedar project. Mature cedars can live for hundreds of years so it’s early days and there’s plenty more to be done securing a future for this enigmatic tree species.”

Seedlings from Mulanje cedar (Widdringtoni whytei) seeds collected during Dan Luscombe’s trips to Malawi have made the next important step in their journey to help save this cedar from extinction. The Eden Project has extended a helping hand by making space in their collection. This is an example of how the collaborative work of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) brings species back from the brink of complete extinction.

The Mulanje cedar is classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened species with a decreasing population trend. In January 2017 a 2 week survey at the top of Mulanje Mountain to assess the scale of destruction identified just seven mature individual trees. The Eden Project has taken the seedlings raised at Bedgebury’s world leading nursery for conifers in to their care. These trees will be supported to grow on at the Eden Project by a biome environment that will give the seedlings the best chance of surviving outside of their natural climate in Malawi.

Catherine Cutler, Biomes Manager at The Eden Project said: “Eden is delighted to be working alongside Bedgebury and BGCI members supporting the Mulanje cedar work, to prevent the extinction of such a special tree. The seedlings grown by the team at Bedgebury are beautiful and in excellent condition, both strong and healthy. We anticipate the trees will thrive in Eden’s climatically controlled Mediterranean biome, securing an ex-situ collection protected from detrimental weather, to ensure robust conservation of the species.

Mulanje cedar is sought-after for its valuable timber. Worth around US$4,000 per cubic metre because of its durability, strength and resistance to termites, populations have been decimated because of illegal harvesting. Bedgebury’s work is not in isolation. The collaboration with BGCI also extends to the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) and Forest Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM). They are co-ordinating the “Save our Cedar” project in Malawi and ten nurseries around the base of the Mulanje Mountain are growing seedlings too.

This is a Forestry Commission Press Release, further information can be found on their website.