The Missing Genera campaign began in 2016 and every year since, Plant Heritage has highlighted ten different varieties of plant not currently represented in a National Plant Collection.
Vicki Cooke, Conservation Manager at Plant Heritage explained: “The idea of the Missing Genera campaign is to showcase some of the many types of garden plant we have in the UK that don’t have a National Plant Collection to look after them. Anyone can help by starting their own National Plant Collection of one of the types listed this year, which they can care for, grow and ultimately help to conserve for future generations to enjoy.”
In July 2020, just as the UK was slowly emerging from a national lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, Plant Heritage published the list for that year: Arisaema, Aubrieta, Berberis, Daphne, Elaeagnus, Gaura, Hoya, Papaver, Robinia and Tradescantia.
To be honest, I only had a passing interest in Tradescantia. It was not a genus I had developed any passion for, either in the garden or as houseplants. However, I had recently decided to redevelop my fruit and vegetable garden with ornamentals of some kind and the appeal to start a National Collection struck a chord. When I delved a bit further into the genus, it was clear that the species originating in the mid-west of North America, the winter-hardy species, were easy to grow and propagate with little specialist care required for their wellbeing. So easy, in fact, that they are considered to be an invasive weed in many States and difficult to eradicate!
Desk research on the internet revealed a fascinating history and an extensive range of species and cultivars, cultivation notes and warnings about prolific seeding and spreading habits but, on the whole, it was a genera that interested me and sparked my curiosity. Could I really build up a National Collection? Could I seek out all known cultivars in the UK? At 70, was I too old to begin the task and who would take it on if I became ill or worse?
My fears were unfounded. Initial discussions with the wonderful team of plant conservationists at Plant Heritage HQ in Guildford, and my local Gloucestershire Group committee emboldened me and I took the plunge!
What follows is my account of how I went about building the Collection, the process of becoming accredited and the responsibilities that come with it. It will also document detailed descriptions of each plant in the Collection and as much useful information as I can offer anyone thinking of either growing Tradescantias for pleasure or taking on a National Collection of their own.