Josh Styles & The Great Sundew
It is common to recognise a hero in hindsight. It is an extraordinary thing to see one on the rise. In the field of botany conservation, Josh Styles is fast ascending towards superstardom. The lovable 24-year-old from Southport has beamed a passion for the native flora of North West England which has been simply unmissable for all of those around.
Josh’s love for botany began at a very early age. From as young as 6 Josh would plant packets of seeds and watch them grow unblinking. He was immediately struck at how what he grew could attract so much other life in the form of pollinating insects. This formative experience revealed to him the vital connection between plant life and entire ecosystems. Growing up, Josh voraciously volunteered for local conservation initiatives and gained a degree in Ecology at Edge Hill University, receiving top grades in his year group.
Still in the beginning phase of his career, he has already re-introduced 17 species of rare native plant species in the UK. He is already the project coordinator for a conservation programme – the North-West Rare Plant Initiative. In his role he travels across the North West monitoring over 40 rare plant species, developing strategies for their conservation and reintroduction to suitable areas.
While it is almost easy to become enchanted with the world’s more beautiful and exotic animals, Josh has always held an intense fascination with the plants that grow on his very doorstep. His deep perception of ecology has distilled in him the importance of plants. In his own words; ‘They are the fundamental basis of all life on Earth’. And, although globally many people concern themselves with habitats such as the Amazon rainforest, or the Great Barrier Reef, Josh strides to nurture and restore the wildlife of his local North West England, proving that it can be done any and everywhere.
Representing a new generation of conservation champions, Josh uses modern tools such as social media and YouTube to generate excitement for the UK’s native rare plant species. It is part of his strategy to engage a wider audience to inform them about the importance of conserving local plant species. For a generation desperate to protect the natural world, Josh is blazing a trail for what they could be doing right here in the UK.
One of Josh’s notable successes so far comes from the reintroduction of the Great Sundew plant (Drosera anglica). This small carnivorous plant was found throughout the wetlands of the North West. However, for over a century that land has been drained and converted into agricultural or urban land. The thick, damp peat that covered these habitats was stripped from the land and sold on. That meant that the Great Sundew was pushed to the cusp of extinction and had disappeared from the region almost entirely.
Josh therefore spearheaded a coalition between himself, Chester Zoo, and the Wildlife Trust to cultivate and reintroduce the Great Sundew back into the remaining mossland surrounding Manchester. Josh cultivated over 100 plants at his home and has been patiently planting them in selected areas of restored wetlands. In the county of Cheshire, Josh planted the first Great Sundew to grow there in over 100 years.
Ever-obsessed with his home-turf, Josh is still aware of the global significance of his work. The wetlands and peat-bogs he is working to restore are some of the most effective carbon-sinks on the planet. By being able to restore the long-abused natural habitats of England, Josh is contributing to the world-wide rewilding effort.
It is for all these reasons and more that this year we here at Wildscreen Festival have chosen to celebrate the work of Joshua Styles.
Written by Liam Curran.