Posted by: lensweb | June 9, 2015

Meeting with remarkable trees at Wollaton Park

Trees of Wollaton Park – an easy walk looking at a range of native & introduced trees. Some Champions & historic veteran trees.

Start at lower car park near main entrance off Wollaton Road near children’s playground.

Grid ref SK 530 398   Postcode NG8 2AE

Leader   Graham Piearce

There are thousands of trees of 170 species at Wollaton Park planted as specimens, avenues, copses and plantations. Graham had chosen 20 for us to admire on this evening walk.

wollaton meme mnmol

The flat topped black pine Pinus nigra subsp laricio at the lower gate is the formerly widely planted Corsican pine, now new planting is banned due to the risk of spreading red needle blight. We turned to admire a national champion Turkish Hazel Corylus colurna 150 years old, now as tall as the surrounding trees. There are 15 champion trees in the park. The Romans introduced sweet chestnut Castanea sativa, with edible nuts and timber so useful for fencing and poles. Smell the pollen in July. Hybrid lime Tilia europea ‘pallida’ has a clean trunk, not like the untidy suckers on the parent plant, it has a relationship with lime tree aphids which are attracted to the pollution damaged leaf surfaces, the honeydew that we think causes a nuisance, actually improves the fertility of the soil which is how the tree survives pollution. Broad leaved lime Tilia platyphyllos is infrequent in the wild, the dark hairy leaf curves down and has a silky feel.

The small leaved lime Tilia cordata is the other parent of the hybrid, floriferous with a glaucous heart shaped leaf which has tufts of brown hairs beneath. The trunk was covered with spots, white circles with a central brown scale, Pulvinaria regalis the horse chestnut scale. Each scale is a dead female sheltering 3000 eggs, it was first noticed in Nottingham in 1992.  Bright red nail galls were on the leaves, each lime species has it’s own species of nail gall mite. Graham reflected that the insect pollinated small leaved lime deserved to be the quintessential English tree as lowland lime woodlands predominated before land clearance. The tight grained wood does not splinter, is good for turning and the choice for morris dancer’s sticks. The fibrous bast which is the phloem beneath the bark is used to make the rope for church bells. According to Missa the ground fruit mixed with dried lime flowers makes delicious chocolate.

pithmemeThe English walnut, Juglans regia needs an open position, it is late into leaf and has early leaf fall. It was introduced by the Romans. In the American civil war citizens were called up ‘to carry walnut’, the roots of the walnut are always dug out as the best wood for gunstocks.

The signature trees for a deer park are oak and beech, the mast improves the doe’s milk. The English oak Quercus robur has attitude. It is heavy low and branching the lobed leaves are stalked and the leaf veins chase to the lobes and sinus of the blade. To distinguish pedunculated, sessile Quercus petraea and hybrid oaks there is a mathematical formula used after taking a set series of measurements. Turkey oak Quercus cerris has a narrower more indented leaf and a mossy acorn cup. An attractive tree but the timber splits. It is being removed from many parks as it is an alternate host for the knopper gall wasp. Red oak Quercus rubra is a fast growing weed, the autumn colour disappoints and the acorns which take 2 years to form, often abort.

250 years is the maximum age for a beech tree Fagus sylvatica before they suddenly collapse and fragment. Copper beech naturally grows from 2 in every 1000 nuts. Years of selecting dark ones has given the purple beech Fagus sylvatica f purpurea which can be seen to be grafted.

redwoodmemeIn a blaze of sunshine we turned to a specimen of the world’s largest living organism, the Giant sequoia or redwood. A magnificent tree with worthless timber. Originally described by the patriotic British as Wellingtonia gigantea in 1853 a year after the Duke of Wellington’s death, the name reclaimed by America (it was their tree) as Sequoiadendron giganteum honouring the half caste son of an English trader and a Cherokee squaw who, fascinated by the talking leaves the settlers wrote back home, developed an alphabet for the Cherokee language. The red wood was a must have for country estates at that time, Country Life in 1876 advertised a BOGOF, 2 guineas each or a dozen for 12 guineas. There is no trace left  of a redwood avenue which stretched from Middleton Boulevard to Lenton Lodge but a plantation of 90 trees remains, the largest in the country.

A 330 year old county champion horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum had a magnificent presence but was rotten to the core. It all depends which side you look. Occasionally Graham was distracted by other trees, an Indian horse chestnut with most striking flowers. The native wild cherry is one of our most attractive trees but the double form has a spikier shape. Prunus avium ‘Plena’ flowers beautifully (we were too late) but rarely produces fruit. How could we not take a moment out for the red deer stags so close that we could almost stroke them?

Back in the fold on the North Bank, one of Graham’s favourite spots, a mini-arboretum starting with Atlas Cedrus atlantica f glauca and Deodar Cedrus deodara cedars, a favourite of Capability Brown. They are very hardy and tolerate pollution. The deodar branches droop, the larger needles are in sprays like larch. The upright Atlas  so beautifully blue but a giant surprise, totally unsuitable for most gardens.

An umbrella with a skirt of dead branches is a classic example of pin oak which shows good autumn colour. Japanese rowan Sorbus commixta with white plates of flowers, is a bonfire in autumn and we also saw an unusually robust specimen of a variegated sycamore. A county champion purple beech (likely to implode any time) was followed by a county champion Roble beech Lophozonia obliqua (formerly nothofagus). History in the making, the roble beech from the southern hemisphere fits into the English landscape without the alien feel of eucalyptus or monkey puzroble meme mnminzle and is part of plans to counter the lethal effects of global warming on our own native trees.

Side by side, two trees were used to compare  specimens of English and sessile oak. The crooked English oak supports 500 insect species. The sessile oak has a straight trunk with an umbrella of even branches and does not suffer from spangle or knopper galls. Many twentieth century park trees were sourced in Poland and Germany but now locally sourced native stock is favoured.

Wollaton Hall was completed in 1588 and at that time a Holm oak Quercus ilex was planted which would have been almost the biggest and oldest in Britain, no longer alive, there is still an impressive specimen of the evergreen oak at the gate of the hall gardens. And here  we stopped, as this would be a whole new story of exciting trees brought back to Britain by the great plant explorers.

Marion Bryce 9 June 2015


  1. Thanks for another superb article after a really interesting visit.


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