Herbal Essences supports the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to help save endangered plants from extinction through seed banking

Endangered plants need our help - now more than ever

Plants underpin all life on Earth, providing the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat – they’re the backbone of the world’s ecosystems.

However, experts predict that one in five plant species is at risk of annihilation. This means that plants are going extinct two times faster than animals.

Herbal Essences wants to act now. So, we’ve partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to help protect some of the most threatened and endangered plant species. Biodiversity loss and threats to plant extinction exist everywhere.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank works with local partners around the world to help conserve seeds from species at risk of extinction. Banking seeds acts as an insurance policy, protecting species for generations to come and even allowing us to rintroduce plants if their natural habitat has been destroyed.

Plant Blindness

Plants play a powerful role in our environment, nutrition and medicine. Just by being around plants, we can improve our physical and mental wellbeing.

Despite this, they are going extinct at twice the rate that animals face. Endangered plants are not getting the attention that they deserve.

When we walk our local roads, hike in a woodland, or gaze at our local common, there are tens or hundreds of species right before our eyes. But we are wired to ignore their details and diversity. That is a phenomenon called plant blindness, and consequently, plant extinction is an urgent crisis that is often overlooked.

In fact, a study from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Stockholm University found that plant biodiversity loss is the biggest missed issue of the last decade, with experts predicting that one in five plant species is at risk of annihilation.

Biodiversity loss is impacted by climate change; yet more attention is paid to climate change. My research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew concentrates on how to stop biodiversity loss and in doing so realize the potential impact plants can have on a sustainable future – which is why it’s so critical to find solutions to protect against plant extinction,

Professor Alexandre Antonelli,
Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Seed Banking

A seed bank stores seeds to protect the genetic information of the plant species as part of conservation efforts around biodiversity as well as providing opportunities to save and research plants. Seed banking offers a way to preserve a seed so it can be reintroduced into nature in the future.

Seed banks exist all over the world and require a low temperature and low moisture environment to store the resting seeds. Seed banks are essentially seed libraries for the future. When stored correctly, seeds can remain viable for decades or even centuries.

Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank works with partners and seed banks across the globe to help with the conservation of seeds from these species of plants. This helps to protect and preserve plants that face natural habitat destruction and safeguard them from extinction.

Plants Power Our Lives, Let’s Return the Favour

Plants power everything - from diet and medicine, to beauty, to making the world a more joyful place. However, plants are going extinct two times faster than animals*. They urgently need our help.

Herbal Essences is committed to continue supporting Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to help save threatened and endangered plant species. We are not only supporting seed banking, but also helping drive awareness about biodiversity loss and eradicating plant blindness. We can all play a role in protecting our plants.

*research study between scientist at Stockholm University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Save 20 in 2020 : Learn more about the
20 endangered plant species we are helping protect in the UK.

Thrift

This pretty in pink thrift plant was used as an emblem on the old British 12-sided three penny coin, as a reminder of the importance of spending money wisely during the wars. So, this beautiful plant still holds historic value in the UK.

Chamomile

Limited to only a few areas of Southern England, the charming chamomile plant that emanates beautiful, apple-like scent has seen a 90% decline in a 60-year period from the 1930s. Unfortunately today, it is categorized as vulnerable in the UK. The plant is also a hair care tradition as it was used to enhance the color of blonde hair and to make hair shine. It is still used in some shampoos today!

Wild strawberry

Humans as well as many other creatures enjoy these beautiful succulent fruits but once widespread, the wild strawberry is categorised as -of least concern in England. Conservationists at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank have conserved 13 collections from three known sites in an effort to save the species.

Pasqueflower

These vibrant purple and gold wildflowers have seen over 80% of their population lost. Since RBG Kew has been able to categorise the UK populations into four distinct groups, it has been possible to capture and bank the true diversity of the pasqueflower This information is imperative in helping to plan conservation and introduction into habitats to create diverse and sustainable populations.

Corn buttercup

This charismatic plant, most known in the UK for the ‘butter test’ you did as a child, has distinct large, spiny seeds, and has previously been unfairly judged as a weed. This, coupled with intensive farming practices, has now led to the corn buttercup to be Critically Endangered in the UK. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank’s UK Native Seed Hub has produced large crops of corn buttercup seed to support the reintroduction of this species into the stunning British countryside.

Sneezewort

Despite its name, this plant has been extremely useful to historic medical traditions, as it was used to clear the nose and as a remedy for toothache. Although it is fantastic to see this plant currently widespread in the UK, there is still evidence of a fast decrease over the last 70 years. Seeds are available for conservation, restoration, education and research.

Pheasant’s-eye

The Adonis Annua or Pheasant’s eye, showy relative of the but with its scarlet flowers and ferny foliage, was once common enough to be considered a weed but unfortunately means the pheasant’s-eye is now endangered (Endangered) and limited to a handful of sites in the UK. Conservationists have conducted extensive research to understanding the complex developments of these vibrant plants, enabling larger quantities to be grown and new advice to help establish and sustain this beautiful species

Green-winged orchid

This striking orchid with its showy flowers in purples or pinks and contrasting stripes and spots has declined substantially since the 1950s. Farming development across the UK is threatening this species and for that reason, conservationists have limited these plants to nature reserves and other sites specifically managed for nature conservation.

Cuckooflower

These lovely early spring plants with small and delicate pale pink or mauve flowers add beauty to the world and delight both Orange-tip and Green-veined White butterflies as well as people. It is important that the seed collection of this species is timed carefully as the mature fruits burst open to release the seeds

Carline thistle

Despite this spiky plant’s understated straw-colored flowers and black spines, it is an important nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies. The Carline thistle is usually found in dry, infertile, chalky, well-grazed grassland or on base-rich soils but the plant is declining in the UK due to loss of unimproved grassland and a lack of grazing. Conservationists are using the Carline thistle seeds to support chalk grassland restoration in the South Downs.

Chalk eyebright

This gorgeous little annual plant is endemic to the UK and Ireland which means it doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world. However, chalk eyebright is endangered in the UK with threats that include breeding with the smaller-flowered common eyebright, which tends to grow lower down the slopes and its annual life cycle means seed production is the only means of reproduction.

Marsh gentian

The bright, vibrant blue flowers of the marsh gentian are a rarely seen and many have been drained, destroyed or neglected over the past 100 years. Seed banking provides a way of capturing these populations before they are lost, and conservationists are eager to learn about the species as this will enable them to secure a long-term future for this lovely plant.

Red hemp-nettle

The small red hemp-nettle is now critically endangered, meaning it is at a high risk of extinction in the UK. Efforts to expand the small surviving populations are restricted by the availability of seed and its complex growing method (the state in which the plant is alive but not actively growing). So, only a small proportion of the seeds germinate each year.

Vervain

The vervain has small, pale lilac flowers that stand on leafless spikes has a long history of uses both in medicine and mysticism. Conservationist have two collections conserved from southern England and further collections from different areas are sought as part of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank’s ongoing work.

Cowslip

With a scent that is reminiscent of apricots and beautiful yellow coloring, the cowslip brings delight to the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank’s UK Native Seed Hub assisted a project to create more habitats for this butterfly to breed. Traditionally the leaves and flowers of the cowslip 16were used for skin problems. It was also a remedy for melancholia and has sedative properties and historically, it was recommended for use in those suffering from paralysis.

Meadow clary

UK wildlife legislation protects this imposing blue beauty from being picked, uprooted, destroyed or sold. Grazed fields and meadows are the usual habitats for meadow clary and there are very few sites in southern England where this plant is native, and the changing environment is enabling this species to be put at risk of losing its unique habitat.

Ragged robin

Named for its pink or white narrowly lobed petals, this eye-Ragged robin is attractive to bumblebees, butterflies and especially long-tongued bees. Although the plant is still widespread, the continuous drainage of wetlands and farming improvements have led to the decline of the species.

Devil's-bit scabious

Despite its unsettling name, the devil’s-bit scabious flowers provide a delicious source of pollen and nectar for bees, moths and butterflies to help them survive the winter. This plant is also the primary foodplant source for the vulnerable young marsh fritillary butterfly and the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth. The plant has decreased in numbers due to the loss of unimproved grassland and hills and are available for research, education and conservation.

Yew

The oldest tree in the UK is believed to be between 2,000-3,000 years old and the yew plant is deeply entwined with folklore and mythology. Although the greenery and seeds of this plant are toxic to humans and animals, it produces compounds within the spikes and bark which have been found to have anti-cancer properties and have led to the development of a range anti-cancer drugs. The red seed coverings are also an important delicacy for many bird species.

Globeflower

This eye-catching lemon-yellow spherical flower, which is also a member of the buttercup family, is declining in the UK. As climate change and farming improvements forces species to decline, this species is at risk of losing its unique habitat.

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