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Praise for growing hawkweed

A SHETLAND conservation body plans to re-introduce a species of hawkweed into the wild after it had become extinct due to quarrying work at Mavis Grind, in the north of the isles.

Shetland Amenity Trust, in co-operation with a range of other agencies, is currently growing Hieracium hethlandiae in artificial cultivation.

Shetland is host to 26 different species of hawkweed, 18 of which are endemic to the isles, which means they don’t grow anywhere else.

All of these species are under pressure and in decline, mainly due to overgrazing by sheep.

The surviving species tend to be confined to locations relatively inaccessible to sheep.

The various species look very much alike, but there are significant differences in flower and leaf structure, according to scientists.

Dr Tim Rich, head of vascular plants at the National Museum of Wales said: “I was very impressed by the scale of the work growing the hawkweeds, and the understanding of their importance and how to grow them. 

“This is the best example of cultivation of these plants for conservation I have seen. The work the trust is undertaking in maintaining populations in cultivation is of clear importance.”