Discover here some of the interesting facts about trees and their links to Plymouth. There are plenty more in the book 'Plymouth's Favourite Trees'.
Interesting things about trees
A tree trunk will expand its girth by approximately one inch for every year of its life providing a quick way of estimating a tree's age. If you know where the tree with the largest trunk is in Plymouth, please email us the details.Apple pips do not necessarily produce the same apples as the original tree. The Bramley apple is the most famous example of a new variety coming from planting pips. Why not try this with your family?Buying a real christmas tree grown in a pot makes good ecological sense. You can use it many times over and it looks and smells great!The Common Lime provides honey bees with nectar from its flowers in July. Sometimes a whole tree can be heard "buzzing" as bees do their work. The fruit of a Hawthorn is called a haw. Haws provide winter food for many birds.The London Plane is often used for inner city planting because its shiny leaves are easily washed clean by rain preventing damage by traffic fumes.
Trees produce more oxygen than any other single living organism
A milestone on Greenbank Road has carved into it: “The way to the old tree”. It is an ancient direction stone pointing the way to the Old Tree Slip which was on the north shore of Sutton Harbour.In the 1680s when Celia Fiennes, the celebrated traveller, was on her epic horseback journey around England, she found Mount Edgcumbe "all bedecked with woods which are divided into several rows of trees in walks".In the Earl's Garden at Mount Edgcumbe is a Lucombe Oak, this variety is the result of an 18th century cross between a turkey oak and a cork oak. It was first raised from seed around 1763 by an Exeter nurseryman, Mr Lucombe, and is comparitively rare outside the southwest.Plymouth’s oldest public park planted with trees is Devonport Park which opened in 1858.Southway Wood is less than sixty years old and was open farmland until about 1950. The tall trees near the Civic Centre pool in Plymouth were preserved when the new city centre was being rebuilt after the Second World War. They had been planted in Westwell Gardens several years before the war.The two lime trees in Mutley Plain are the only ones remaining out of the fifty which lined the street at the start of the twentieth century.When the new A38 was built, the cutting between Saltram House and Hardwick Wood lowered the water table so that several trees died from drought.
Names and places
John Garland Treseder who introduced the tree fern to Britain from Australia wrote: "If they can be landed in Plymouth, so much the better."John Smeaton, who designed the third Eddystone lighthouse off Plymouth took 'as his model the trunk of an oak, which so seldom succumbs to the tempest.'The Douglas fir grows well in the South West and makes a good timber tree. It was introduced from California by David Douglas. He arrived back in Plymouth in 1827 after a stormy voyage from Hudson's Bay. The Fitzroya tree is named after Captain Fitzroy who was the captain of HMS Beagle during Darwin’s famous voyage of discovery. The Beagle sailed from Plymouth in 1831.The tree species ”Winter’s Bark” is named after one of Sir Francis Drake's captains on his circumnavigation. After terrible storms, Captain Winter had to turn back to England. In South America he discovered this tree whose beautiful flowers and bark have anti-scurvy properties.
There are about 250 trees in Beaumont Park in an area of about 2 hectares.There are just 33 tree species that can be considered native to Britain but an estimated 1500 species grow here today as the result of many introductions since Roman times. Most of them could be grown in the favourable conditions around Plymouth. There are over 200 varieties of apple tree local to Devon, including the Plympton Pippin and Plymouth Cross.
The biggest tree in Britain is a sweet chestnut in Penshurst, Kent, with a girth of 52 feet or 16 metres. The Widey oak has a girth of 23 feet (7.2 metres) but are there other big trees in Plymouth you can tell us about?The tallest tree in Britain is a Douglas fir at Powis Castle, Wales which stands at 201 feet or just over 63 metres tall. Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square is 170 feet tall and the Devonport column is 124 feet tall. We are looking for trees in Plymouth that are taller than these. The title of the oldest tree in Britain goes to a yew tree at Fortingall in Scotland, which is estimated to be 5000 years old. Plymouth has some yew and oak trees that are over 500 years old but we are still looking for a truly old veteran. The world's oldest living tree is over 9,500 years old! The visible portion of the Norway spruce (the popular christmas tree used to decorate homes every year) discovered in Sweden in 2004 is 4 metres tall and is relatively recent but the root system has been growing continuously since the end of the last ice age. Do you know where Plymouth's oldest living tree is? If so email us and let us know.
Things worth knowing about trees
A dead tree stump is usually alive with insects. These attract birds and other wildlife and can add another dimension to your garden so consider leaving it in place.Some trees roots spread further underground than the branches spread above ground.The term deciduous derives from the Latin 'falling'. It applies both to trees which lose their leaves in winter and teeth which are lost to make way for the permanent set.
To plant trees that support insect life choose Oak, Beech, Ash and Hornbeam. For planting in wet or boggy areas choose Alder, Poplar or Willow. If planting for autumn colour try Blue Cedar, Maple, Silver Birch and Rowan.Trees in or around a property can add up to 20% more to the value of that propertyTrees may not survive for long in a pot as their roots become restricted and cannot take up enough water for the growing tree.
If you look closely at a pine cone, you will see that its seeds are not enclosed in a seed case or ovary. This is a major difference with broadleaved trees. Trees without seed cases are known as gymnosperms and those with are known as angiosperms.Leaves are arranged on twigs as opposite pairs (e.g. maples), in spirals (e.g. beech) or 'whorled' (e.g. spruce). This is a good aid to tree recognition.No one really knows how water is able to travel to the top of a tall tree from its roots. It is thought to be a combination of osmosis, capillary action and the siphon effect. The cell structure of wood in conifers is different from broadleaved trees. Conifers are sometimes called softwood trees and broadleaves called hardwood trees.The sugars made in the leaves during photosynthesis are transported around a tree in conducting tissues that lie directly under the bark.
Tree care tips
A square hole is better than a round one when planting out a pot grown tree. A square hole encourages root growth into the corners and out into the soil whereas a round one encourages the roots to spiral back on themselves and slows growth.Plant a new tree as young as possible as it will establish more quickly than older nursery stock. When planting a new container grown tree, dig a hole at least twice the diameter and half as deep again as the container. Gently tease out circling roots and plant with the top of the soil ball level with the surrounding soil. When planting young trees, it's usually best to use a stake for support and protection. Always keep the base clear of weeds and grass. You should never use a strimmer around the base of a tree. It can damage the bark and kill the tree!
In 1947, Britain became the first country in the developed world to introduce statutory protection for trees. Plymouth currently has over 450 Tree Preservation Orders in force.