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Champion Trees

Man has always been fascinated with the largest of our living plants, trees.  Worldwide, there are many individuals who are obsessed with finding out which are the tallest and broadest trees in the world. The world's tallest tree, for example, is a Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens found in California and it's a whopping 115m, 375ft high!

While Britain cannot claim to have such giants, it does shine in terms of numbers as we have many ancient deer parks and Royal Forests. The largest of these trees in the UK have been recorded by the national Tree Register. Over 200,000 records are now contained in the Register which also includes historical measurements as far back as the 17th century. The broadest and tallest single tree of each species is given 'Champion' status.

On 30 July, Dr Owen Johnson, author of Champion Trees of Britain and Ireland: The Tree Register Handbook, came to Ness to revisit some of the known fine specimen trees in the Gardens. Ness has now been recorded as having a large number of Champion Trees that includes 17 national Champion Trees and 108 county Champions. The list includes some interesting plants, with the main focus of the nationally important trees being the rare and unusual wild collected trees introduced to Ness by Hugh McAllister and other modern day plant collectors.

It is hoped a future publication will look at the Ness 'Champions' in more detail. However, for now to whet your appetite here is a brief selection of some of these plants...

Abies durangensis is a species of fir from Mexico. This tree is found just above Wood Henge and is notable for it being one of the host fir species known to have a species of Mistletoe (Arceuthobium abietinum) as a parasite. The species is both drought and frost hardy, and makes an attractive and unusual addition to the conifer collection at Ness.

Fraxinus dipetala is a species of Ash Tree from California. It is unusual in cultivation and more typically forms a multi-stemmed shrub in the UK. The Ness Champion is a small tree near the children's play area. It is now also notable as it is part of ongoing work by Queen Mary University, London looking at natural resistance of species of Ash to Chalara Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). This is a fungal disease that has already killed many millions of ash trees on the continent. F. dipetala is reported to be one of the naturally resistant species.

Sorbus carmesina in the Pine Wood is a superb rowan from Yunnan in China. Collected by modern day plant collectors Chris Brickell and Alan Leslie, it is a wonderful sight in autumn with gorgeous burgundy coloured fruits (below) and excellent autumn colour. It comes true from seed and is much sought after in the horticultural trade.

Ness has a superb collection of trees that should be much celebrated. If you would like to find out more, and have not already done so - take a trip around the gardens with a copy of the Tree Trail.

Sorbus Carmesina