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We've joined Chester Zoo to save Cheshire's rare native Black Poplar Trees

A clump of rare native black poplar trees has been planted along the Weaver Navigation, near Northwich, in Cheshire, in a joint rescue mission to preserve the species by us and Chester Zoo.

A group of people posing for camera with baby tree plants

Ensuring the tree's survival

Black poplar trees would once have been a familiar sight on riverside woodlands and floodplains, but now they are one of the rarest tree species in the country. Changes in land management, with more drainage for agriculture and a reduction in the need for traditional timber, have meant fewer have been planted.

Only around 370 true black poplar trees have been recorded growing in Cheshire since 1990 and they are mostly mature trees which are gradually being lost through old age. The threat of the species being hybridised by other poplar varieties or disappearing completely inspired Chester Zoo to initiate a special conservation project to propagate true Cheshire black poplar cuttings to ensure the native tree's survival.

This month we have planted half a dozen male and female trees from the project by the River Weaver in Hartford to encourage future propagation.

Picture of a fully grown black poplar tree

Adding a striking presence to the landscape

Sara Kirk, our ecologist, said: “True black poplars need very specific conditions to reproduce naturally. Their seeds are short-lived, and male and female trees need to be sited close to each other, with fertilised seeds falling on damp ground.

“The Weaver valley, with its mosaic of woodland and wetland habitats beside the river, is an ideal site to kickstart the regeneration of these wonderful native trees. They are great for biodiversity and provide a fantastic natural home for moths, bees, birds and butterflies.

“Mature black poplars add an attractive, striking presence to the landscape, particularly in early spring when the male trees are covered in distinctive red catkins. They can grow up to 30 metres tall, 20 metres wide and live for around 200 years. We hope our trees will thrive in their new home and help to ensure the survival of this wonderful native tree in Cheshire for many generations to come.”

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Last Edited: 21 December 2022

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