The native Black Poplar or Populus nigra betulifolia is Britain's most rare native timber tree and has declined to the verge of extinction in some areas, but now new efforts are now being made to ensure its long-term survival.
It's usually found in wet woodland and besides streams, particularly in the floodplains of lowland rivers. It was widely cultivated for timber until the mid 19th century when it was replaced by more productive strains and hybrids. As a result most of the poplars planted in recent decades have been of European stock.
This means that almost all the remaining native Black Poplars are of a considerable age and size. The progressive ageing of this population has led to a drop in numbers.
The decline has been further exacerbated by the destruction of poplar habitats by modern agricultural methods.
Today there are only about 2000-3000 Black Poplars left nation-wide, many of these nearing the end of their natural life.
Most of these are to be found in lowland areas to the south of a line from the Humber to the Mersey estuaries, with concentrations in the west Midlands, Welsh Marshes and East Anglia.
Some of the most northernmost examples are to be found in Durham where efforts are now being made to boost numbers by taking taking cuttings from existing trees.
The Black Poplar Project which is part of the Durham Biodiversity Action Plan has won the backing of the naturalist and broadcaster David Bellamy.
Folksinger Vin Garbutt has also recorded a song to publicise the campaign.
Durham Biodiversity Plan
Karaoke for conservationists- lyrics of Vin Garbutt's song.
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