Archive for October, 2016

Tree of the month: November 2016

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

What is tree of the month?

Pinus nigra  (Black pine)

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Why is it tree of the month?

An important tree in the Westonbirt landscape, black pine is native to parts of Europe and is split into 5 subspecies, though it’s taxonomic treatment is somewhat controversial! We hope to add to our current specimens through collections we have made in south Italy.

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Known as Calabrian pine to the locals, huge trees of what is generally known as Pinus nigra subsp. laricio grow in Aspromonte National Park and elsewhere.

Where can I find it?

Young and mature specimens can be found throughout the collection. You can locate specimens using the Westonbirt map,  http://www.thewestonbirtmap.org.uk/

Plant hunting…week one!

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

After an action packed 9 days in Calabria and Basilicata we have made a total of 45 collections from our target and associated species list. The pickings have been slightly mixed, with only herbarium material available in some cases, but our detailed collection records make all of this worthwhile.

Personal highlights for me so far include collecting seed of Oriental plane along a riverbed which was growing with alder and black poplar,  among many other species. The fruits of the Oriental plane can be irritant so we had to handle them with care!

Penny handling Oriental plane fruits Team seed collecting in Italy

 

We have also been on the quest for Acer lobelii (Lobel’s maple), a somewhat little known maple endemic to southern Italy. So far, we have found it growing in two locations but, alas, no trees with seed. We do however have other areas in which it grows to explore.

Dan with Lobel's maple

Dan with Lobel’s maple

We’ve sent the first batch of seed to the UK already and we are now off to begin our collecting at Pollino National Park, where we hope to have good fortune with a number of maples, limes, oaks and pines.

Dan, Westonbirt Dendrologist

Plant hunting . . . an exciting opportunity to make a difference!

Friday, October 7th, 2016

New specimens are the lifeblood of any botanical collection. They are needed to provide an all-important uneven age structure, which should ultimately ensure there will be trees for future generations to enjoy.

Together with an expert from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, we are about to set off on a three-week trip to Italy this autumn to search for internationally important tree species.  We will be travelling light and covering as much ground as possible to make the most of this exciting opportunity.  We’ll start collecting in the far southwest, before heading to the northeast.

Dendrologist Dan Crowley, Propagator Penny Jones and I will explore hundreds of miles of Italian countryside to seek out a target list of species that we have carefully selected for a variety of reasons.  We will be accompanied throughout our trip by several Italian botanists and researchers, who have kindly helped us with the planning and logistics.

Left to right: Dan, Penny and Mark.

Left to right: Dan, Penny and Mark.

Some of the trees and shrubs identified as targets will be familiar, but it will be useful to test a more southerly provenance of these species in view of our predicted changing climate.  When I asked Dan what he was hoping for, he immediately stated his main aim is to collect seed from Lobel’s maple (Acer lobelii), as this is rare in the wild and in cultivation.  Penny wishes to see trees growing in their native range and habitat, which will importantly help us to position new plantings correctly within the Westonbirt landscape.

The species that are grand in size will be sought to maintain and develop the historic landscape at Westonbirt, but there is potential that some of these species could also have a big impact on the forestry industry in years to come.  In partnership with Forest Research, we have been gathering information on a few key species which have the potential to become timber trees, hopefully with less risk of pest and disease.

Recent work by our Forest Research colleagues has shown that European silver fir (Abies alba) can be a productive species when grown in Britain, and could be more widely used to diversify our UK forests.  The work showed that seed collected in Calabria, Italy performed well and we now need to establish better contacts in this area to collect new seed.  We also want to learn more about how altitude, soils and other factors affect the growth of this tree.

We will endeavour to provide a few updates along the way, and as always, we look forward to seeing how well these new trees will grow at Westonbirt and elsewhere.