LONDON Gin is a precious thing. But, recent fears over dwindling supplies of juniper have troubled gin enthusiasts around the world.
The UK’s National Tree Seed Project has been quietly working to safeguard the future of gin by protecting native juniper trees. Berries from the juniper tree are a critical ingredient in the production of gin.
The project set up by Kews Millennium Seed Bank has been collecting juniper seeds from across the country since May 2013.
The seed collection forms part of a wider project to collect seeds from the entire UK woody flora. And, juniper is the first species to be fully collected in its entirety across Great Britain.
The supply of gin has become an ever-growing concern as a deadly tree fungus Phytophthora austrocedri has been killing juniper trees across the UK in recent years. A 2015 report found two thirds of juniper stock in Scotland the UK’s last stronghold for juniper to be unfit for usage.
“Collecting viable seeds from juniper is not always easy and the berries we harvested from 43 different populations throughout Britain will not only play an important part in this conservation work but help us understand the challenges facing this iconic tree species,” said Dr Shelagh McCartan, Seed Scientist at Forest Research.
The tree seeds collected as part of the project are now being safely stored at -20C in the underground vaults of the seed bank at Wakehurst in Sussex.
“Kew is delighted to announce that your gin is now safe,” reads a statement from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.
“2016 has been a fantastic year for The UK National Tree Seed Project and Im delighted to hear that weve now fully collected and conserved our native Juniper species,” said Richard Deverell, director of Royal Botanical Garden Kew.
Time for a celebratory gin and tonic, perhaps?