Parsley ferns are sensitive plants, and the best chance of successful cultivation was to get them into sterile conditions. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), a partner in the Ascension project, agreed to help. However, transporting them to Kew Gardens was not an easy task. Once harvested, the spores were vulnerable to drying and contamination, and the team had just 24 hours to transfer the precious cargo to the laboratory in RBG Kew's Conservation Biotechnology Unit (CBU). On the appointed day, Ascension Island's Administrator, Ross Denny, left his official duties for a few hours to help with the rescue bid. He climbed down the ridge with Stedson to collect the precious spores, which were then placed in a sterile container and rushed to the airfield to be flown to RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, where a car was waiting to race them to Kew Gardens. With the clock ticking, the spores arrived. They were extracted and pronounced to be viable to cheers from RBG Kew's UK Overseas Territories conservation team.
Since then, Dr Viswambharan Sarasan and Katie Baker of RBG Kew's CBU have managed to rear a large number of young sporelings, which are flourishing well in cultivation (4). Meanwhile, the team in Ascension has also had success with rearing sporelings of their own, and after further intensive searches they have found a small number of additional parsley fern plants growing near the location of the original find.
Ascension is a young island,
|Contact: Bronwyn Friedlander|
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew