Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Beech at Westonbirt Arboretum

Posted: January 26, 2024 at 12:44 pm

Westonbirt Arboretum's enchanting landscape faces a bittersweet change this year. A magnificent beech tree along Waste Drive, a familiar sight for countless visitors, must be removed due to safety concerns. However, this isn't just a tale of loss; it's a story of resilience and the vibrant future that awaits within the arboretum's embrace.

Beech tree

Balancing Safety and Nature's Wisdom

Removing a tree at Westonbirt is never an easy decision. The arboretum team takes great care to strike a balance between preserving nature's legacy and ensuring visitor safety. In this case, the beech succumbed to the silent threat of fungal disease. Years of monitoring revealed telltale signs – the insidious black crust of Brittle cinder fungus and the robust, shelf-like growths of Southern bracket fungus – indicating advanced decay at the base of the tree.

Brittle cinder fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta) typically affects the roots and lower trunk. Common throughout Britain, it is particularly prevalent in hardwood species such as lime, beech and oak. The fungus appears around the base of trees as a crust-like fruiting body with wavy edges. As it ages, it turns black and resembles burnt bark – hence the name.

The tree is also infected with southern bracket fungus (Ganoderma), the largest and most common Ganoderma species in this country. The brackets are the fruiting bodies of this species and are usually very conspicuous as they tend to grow fairly low down, singularly or in tiered layers. Each year brackets grows a new ridge, like the annual growth rings of a tree, with old brackets reaching over 60cm across.

Making Way for New Life

While the removal of the large beech tree is necessary for safety reasons, it also creates an opportunity for the arboretum to grow and evolve. The cleared space allows other plants to take hold, contributing to the overall biodiversity and providing valuable habitat for local wildlife. While saying goodbye to a mature tree can be bittersweet, it's important to remember that this is part of the natural cycle of life and renewal within the arboretum.

Exploring the Enduring Magic of Westonbirt

While the Waste Drive path undergoes temporary closure in March for the removal process, the arboretum's magic remains vibrant and accessible. Visitors can embark on an ethereal journey along the Treetop Walkway, soaring in the canopy and immersing themselves in the breathtaking panorama. Alternatively, explore Silk Wood from Willesley Drive. Winding underneath the Treetop Walkway offers a different perspective, immersing you in the sights and sounds of nature. Every path holds a hidden surprise, a glimpse of the diverse life and beauty Westonbirt offers.

Beech tree

A Toast to Change and the Everlasting Dance of Nature

Let us raise a silent toast to this beech, its legacy etched in the sun-kissed clearing it will leave behind. As we move forward, let's celebrate the enduring resilience of nature, where endings pave the way for new beginnings. Visit Westonbirt Arboretum and witness this captivating dance of nature yourself.

Help Secure a Vibrant Future for Westonbirt Arboretum

Every gift, big or small, fuels our mission of growing a greener future. Donate today and be a part of Westonbirt's enchanting story.

Together, we can ensure that Westonbirt Arboretum continues to thrive as a haven for trees, a sanctuary for wildlife, and a source of inspiration for all.

Thank you for your support!