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
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.