Why conservationists are rallying around this young botanist
The ecologist was distraught when his stock of rare plants was destroyed.
A botanist in northern England was working on a conservation initiative to reintroduce locally scarce plants when his specimens were deliberately killed by his flatmate.
22-year-old Joshua Styles had been collecting and growing a range of species that were at risk of going extinct in the region, as part of the North-west England Rare Plant Initiative – a project that he set up in August 2017.
Following the destruction of the project’s plants, conservationists raised money for him to move out of his accommodation and to replace the wild-collected plants.
"When I saw the vicious and mindless vandalism of Joshua’s plants – and Joshua, who was distraught at the damage – I was furious," says Linden Hawthorne, who started the fundraising campaign.
"I knew that his nursery of young plants of over 40 scarce species must have represented many hundreds of hours of work in identifying, collecting, cleaning, sowing and recording them. There was an immediate need for funds to help him move away from there, to somewhere safer for himself, and his plants."
Styles has been working in partnership with local organisations, including Lancashire and Cheshire Wildlife Trusts, Natural England, WWT and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, to identify the species at risk and a network of protected sites where they can be reintroduced.
Over 40 species have been identified, including lesser skullcap, ivy-leaved bellflower and round-leaved wintergreen.
Annual knawel (above) is listed as endangered in England, due to habitat loss, and was thought to be extinct in south Lancashire until Styles and two others rediscovered it growing on a site where it hadn’t been seen for nearly ten years.
Main image: Joshua Styles sampling whorled caraway at WWT Martin Mere.