Conservationists are racing against the clock to save a rare Cornish plant that is failing to thrive in the wild.
There are just 13 Lizard junipers remaining at a site in the Gew Graze Valley on the Lizard Peninsula after it suffered very low rates of regeneration, with detailed surveys in 2010 showing a complete lack of natural regeneration.
That year experts took cuttings from all known wild juniper plants on the Lizard to the Eden Project in Cornwall, then in 2012 fruit was collected from five wild female plants in a separate bid to grow plants from the seeds.
Dr Tim Pettitt, from the Eden Project, said seedlings had been germinated from the collected seeds but they had to be sufficiently robust before being returned to the wild.
“It’s part of our native flora and we need to do more to understand why there has been such a strong decline. The species was once abundant and we should endeavour to keep it,” he said.
John Martin, from Natural England, said locals in Cornwall can take great pride in the “botanical importance” of the Lizard as it is home to several rare species.
He said it is the only place in the UK where the Lizard juniper – a subspecies of the juniper, an evergreen conifer – is found.
The experts from the Eden Project and Natural England are hoping to reintroduce the specimens in the coming year.
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