Birch study expedition to Georgia

Our Garden Manager, Paul Bartlett, has just returned from 3 weeks studying the Birch trees of Georgia in the Caucasus mountains. The birch in this area are unusual as they are relict species, isolated from other birch populations over the millenia. So they are quite distinct and also quite rare.

Paul travelled all over Georgia to the various different mountain ranges in the country, collecting seed and creating detailed photographic records and notes. He was assisted by the head of the herbarium at Tbilisi Botanic Garden, who arranged for the use of a vehicle supported by Kew for its Millenium Seed Bank project, as well as local guides.

The study trip was funded by a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Bursary, the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, the Percy Sladen Memorial Fund, Plant Heritage Devon group and The RFS Randle travel fund. Paul is extremely grateful for all their support, without which the expedition could not have been undertaken.

Paul on the hunt for Betula medwedewii near the Turkish border with the Georgian botanists and a Georgian army officer.

A lot of useful information about Georgia’s birches has been collected, which we hope to publish in various horticultural magazines. Next year, once the seed has germinated, we will be carrying out chromosome studies to complete the research.

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was the realisation that even in Georgia, some of the Birch species are extremely rare and in need of protection.

Read more about this story on BBC Devon: