The Sanger Centre’s landmark genetic sequencing of 25 species raises hopes not just for the conservation of Britain’s wildlife but for humans too

Carrington’s featherwort is an unusual plant by any standards. Tiny, between 2cm and 5cm in height, it clusters on high ground in north-west Scotland. Crucially, every single plant found in this secluded Caledonian enclave is male. By contrast, the only other substantial colonies known to botanists are located in the Himalayas – and are made up of females.

Carrington’s featherwort would now be extinct were it not for the fact that the species can also propagate nonsexually. New plants form out of fragments of existing featherworts, producing colonies of clones.

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