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24 August 2015
The Mystery of Liverpool\'s Hebei Elms

A recent recording trip to north-west England has confirmed that Liverpool's Calderstones Park is becoming arguably the best public garden in England in which to look at rare and remarkable trees. Most of these were planted by the City Council in the 1960s but there are some excellent specimens from the park's history as a private estate - plus the 'Allerton Oak' which could be Lancashire's oldest tree. There are now 15 Champion Trees scattered around the Calderstones Park, which continues to be maintained to exemplary standards.

The most mysterious of these trees are three mature examples of Hebei Elm (Ulmus lamellosa) which are tucked under the Menlove Avenue boundary wall and which I had missed on my previous visit to Liverpool eleven years ago. Hebei Elm is a beautiful and distinctive tree, with a very pale grey bark that flakes in fine scales around patches of bright orange lenticels, and a crimson flush to its young foliage. It is also, apparently, resistent to Elm Disease.

The puzzle is that the first documented introduction of the species to cultivation was not until the late 1970s, when George Ware obtained it from Beijing Botanic Garden for the Morton Arboretum in America; there have been a couple of more recently introductions. The Liverpool trees, however, are almost certainly older than this.

While I was finding these elms in Liverpool, Martin Tijdgat, a Dutch dendrologist, was also finding a mature Hebei Elm at the Terwinselen Arboretum in the Netherlands, which is probably even older so could have supplied cuttings for Calderstones. But how did the species first get from Maoist China to Europe in the mid 20th century? The beauty of studying trees is that mysteries like this are constantly thrown up. This is one we may yet solve - watch this space!


03 June 2015
Northern Europe\'s Biggest Tree?

Finding the tallest tree, and the tree with the greatest girth, is relatively simple, but calculating the tree that has the greatest volume of timber in it is much more complex. One likely candidate has become a Grand Fir (Abies grandis) on the Murthly Castle estate in Perthshire which this summer is 57m tall with a columnar bole 764cm in girth at chest-height. Historic measurements suggest it is now about 140 years old, but is continuing to grow as rapidly as ever, in height as well as in girth.

American dendrologists use a 'points system' to determine which tree is the overall champion for each species. The Murthly Grand Fir's 498 points put it slightly behind the biggest Giant Sequoias in Britain and in France - whose tapering lower trunks mean that their timber content is likely to be less than the girth alone suggests. But, remarkably, it already rivals for points the very biggest Grand Firs known in the remaining wild stands in Washington and Oregon.

The Murthly Firs grows among Giant Sequoias and Hemlocks half-way (1.5km) along the drive to the Castle from the Murthly village entrance, and is viewable - to pedestrians only - under Scottish Outdoor Access guidelines.


18 May 2015
Pupils roped in to measure the UKs tallest broadleaf tree

Two Bryanston pupils, Hannah and Robert, today climbed one of Europe's tallest broadleaf trees. They succeeded in measuring one of our London Plane trees at 49.67m from the ground to the highest bud – making it the first measured broadleaf tree in the UK to break the 49m barrier.

Hannah and Robert scaled the tree under the guidance of the Shaftesbury-based Great Big Tree Climbing Company and Bryanston's Head of Outdoor Education, Dave Simpson. The pair, who both have rock-climbing experience, used a variety of rope-climbing techniques to reach the highest possible point and with a 100m tape-measure attached to a pole, were able to note the all-important figure.

“It was an amazing, incredible experience,” said Hannah. “There was such a rush of adrenalin when I got up into the canopy – and it’s a record too, which is fantastic.”

Robert said: “There was just such a fantastic view from the top, looking out over the top of all the other trees. It was such a rewarding experience to climb up there. It was quite hard work on the arms though!”


12 April 2015
It's Magnolia Season!

Many of the Spring flowering magnolia are looking their best at the moment. This is the champion Magnolia 'Columbus' at Savill Garden, growing next to the Queen Elizabeth Temperate House. Height 11.6m x Girth 0.88m. Amongst its many magnolia, Savill Garden can boast eight trees as being national champions. Look out for other champion tree labels as you go round the garden. More magnolia photos on the Latest News page for Members.


12 March 2015
Spring is here!

The Champion Cornus officinalis in Kew Gardens, photographed by Bryan Roebuck. A fine small tree for what is usually a multiple stemmed shrub, this specimen stands 8m tall with a girth of 1.14m. Other specimens can be found at the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum, Hampshire and Glasnevin BG, Dublin. 


23 February 2015
The Tallest Wild Tree in Britain

Last year Brighton dendrologist Peter Bourne identified a beech tree growing in the National Trust's Newtimber Holt on the scarp of the South Downs near Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex as perhaps outstanding for its height. Climbed in April 2015 it is now confirmed at 44m tall (to the upper side of the steep slope at the base - 44.5m to average ground-level.) This makes it the tallest 'wild' tree to have been measured with any confidence in Britain (though it is slightly surpassed by one planted example of Common Lime in Scotland and of course by many introduced conifers). It is perfectly situated on a sheltered slope (at TQ27691264) and seems in excellent health. A public trail (with some steep slopes and steps) runs through the woodland just above it.


01 January 2015
Tallest Tree in London

The search is on for the tallest tree growing within Greater London. Results will be out in February 2015.


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