Welcome to the tree trail in Gedling Country Park and an explanation of the workings behind the implementation of this project.
After the project was first mooted by the Friends of Gedling Country Park: Two seemingly simple issues presented themselves and both have taken a considerable time and effort to resolve.
Issue 1. What is a tree?
Everyone knows a tree when they see one, but can one be precisely defined?
Over the last year and a half we have diligently searched libraries, scientific papers and the internet but are still unable to arrive at an all encompassing definition of a tree. The most commonly accepted definition contain certain features such as it is a woody plant, erect, mainly rigid, single stemmed, usually un-branched for its first few metres and exceeding 6 metres in height. Unfortunately this definition then excludes accepted trees such as our dwarf willows and Juniper, due to the height issue, and also many of our larger willows are notoriously multi-stemmed.
Regarding the clear stemmed issue this is commonly due to livestock grazing or due to growing within dense woodland and is not necessarily part of the trees natural growth pattern. The other major issue is where to draw the line regarding tree versus shrub. Spindle, Buckthorn, Alder Buckthorn and Juniper are usually grown and seen as bushes but all can attain heights well over 6 metres and if left undisturbed and in a suitable habitat will naturally appear as trees. Regarding this issue a line has to be drawn somewhere and we take full responsibility for the selection of the Trees to be included within the Trail, however should anyone disagree with the choices or feel some other species should be included please contact The Friends Group for discussion.
Issue 2. What is a native tree?
This is the really difficult to define, in-fact I do not believe it ever really will be. No definitive native tree list exists and nearly all institutions adopt different criteria, though many have certain common factors. The other major problem is that the majority of the UK was covered by an ice sheet as recent as 11,000 to 12,000 years ago and most species arrived and re-colonised the country after the ice melt. A decision has to be made and we make no apologies for our choices and it has taken many months to sort the list to an acceptable conclusion. However, the choice is not set in stone and I am sure other species will be added in the future. The choices have been made based on both scientific evidence and “Common Sense”. An example of one of the major problems is human involvement and this, is another intractable area. If a species is spread by a bird or mammal and been growing for a few thousand years, mainly prior to the UK’s separation from mainland Europe, it is considered native. If plants are intentionally spread by humans they are considered non-native. However what if the spread is by accidental human action, such as seeds in hair or clothing, and how do you decide?
The following list contains some of the possibly controversial inclusions and the reasons for their inclusion:-
English Elm (4) Surprisingly questionable as this has always been considered the quintessentially British Tree, however there hangs a question mark as to this species originality. There is no evidence as when it arrived within the UK and by what route it travelled. Many named Elm’s are thought to be sports with unknown origins some being planted from cuttings.
Crack Willow (6) and Basket Willow (8):-
Both species appear long before 1500.
Alder buckthorn (9), Wayfaring tree (10), Spindle tree (11), Elder (18), Juniper (21), Hazel (22), Blackthorn (27), Buckthorn (33) and Box (46):-
All these species have been questioned mainly due to issue of height and the fact that they are mainly hedgerow species, however left to grow freely they will all attain over 6metres, some considerably more.
Strawberry tree (39) Now only native to Ireland but suggestions are that it was previously growing in Wales. Both specimens are within the Park’s ‘Gardens’.
Sweet chestnut (42) Probably the most controversial choice, and only included recently due to us discovering it listed as a native species. Previously supposed to have been introduced by the Romans as a food source, however it is wondered why the Olive was not also introduced as it grows and fruits in the UK and is not so particular in choice of soils. Do remember the Tree Trail is an educational tool as well as a delightful decorative asset to Gedling Country park and hopefully all will enjoy its creation and assist in preserving it for future generations.