Bicton conservation projects
How you can do your bit

In the summer of 2004 the first of the major Bicton conservation projects, the Bicton Orchid Conservation Project was launched. This has been immensely successful in raising awareness of growing cultivated orchids instead of plants taken from their native forest. With the help of a group of children from a comprehensive school in Somerset and their teacher Mr Simon Pugh-Jones the project had raised over £2000 by early in 2005.

They offer for sale 15 different species of orchid that have been cultivated with the help of their partners in Guatemala. Orchids produce loads of seeds so it’s not difficult to harvest them. If the seeds are then planted and cultivated they can be offered for sale, providing a sustainable source of plants. This relieves pressure on the wild plants, which are from a non-sustainable source, namely the forests of South America. The plants are available from the plant shop at Bicton.

The latest offering from this group of Sixth Form students are greetings cards, available from the gift shop at Bicton Gardens. The students have formed a Young Enterprise company to collaborate with another Young Enterprise Company in Los Amigos Del Bosque. This supports a village primary school near the Bosque de Paz Nature Reserve. This school has about 70 pupils, 1 teacher, hardly any books and no other equipment for the children to use for learning. Proceeds from the Young Enterprise will go towards helping the less fortunate children.

Other Bicton conservation projects

The latest of the Bicton conservation projects is helping to study native British plants for their medicinal properties. Bicton liken it to neighbours swapping plants and ideas over the garden fence. When they heard that the scientists at Kew Gardens – another very famous botanical garden – were asking for help they promptly offered to help them out.

Kew is collecting information about the medicinal use of plants between 1900 and 1945, before the National Health Service was introduced. At that time people had to pay for medical treatment, so if they could use a plant remedy it was much cheaper for them. Many of these remedies are now being forgotten it’s becoming urgent to collect and conserve them before they are lost forever.

Many of them are very similar, which suggests that they were effective for relieving the conditions. If they didn’t work then people would have forgotten about them. You can view a list of remedies that people have submitted at the Ethnomedica page of the Kew Gardens website

More than a quarter of all modern drugs comes either directly or indirectly from plants. Yet hardly any plants have actually been analysed to find their medicinal properties. The benefits of using ordinary plants, such as the willow family, have already been shown in their use in treatment of things like leg ulcers. Plant extracts have been shown to be helpful in keeping the wound clean while at the same time promoting healing in the cells to close the wound.

Experiments with other plants have revealed hidden uses in treating other conditions such as cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s disease.

Conservation projects are not just about preserving habitats and plants but also in recording the vast knowledge of herbal lore. Unless these are collected and collated now they will be lost forever.

At Bicton conservation projects are given a high priority. The main aim of the gardens is to promote awareness of the limited availability of many of our plants and trees and increase visitor's knowledge about things that you can do to help out.

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