Heritage Trees


Cultural and environmental contributions made by our native and exotic trees play an intrinsic role in our everyday lives.  The ancient and giant trees are more easily recogniseable; they often present technically difficult management problems, for which Arboretum Internationale has solutions based upon many years of real experience working with some of Europe's oldest and largest specimen trees.

Older, mature, native and exotic trees often have the potential to be described as 'Veteran', or 'Heritage':  Veteran describes those trees of extraordinary age for their species, and Heritage alludes to some human, cultural connection (e.g. folklore, religious, or commemorative).  In many cases Veteran and Heritage value may well be found in the same tree.  Urban, sub-urban and rural development and land management practices have created the invaluable tree reserves we enjoy today.  Whilst we should hope to continue to enjoy today's veteran and heritage trees for many years to come, we must not ignore their basic requirements.  Often as a consequence of the conflict with human demands, water, sunlight, oxygen and nutrients are becoming increasingly unavailable to trees.  Natural disasters (drought, storms, pest plagues) all play a part in the normal lifecycle of trees.  Where these are coupled with human factors - pollution, development pressures, vandalism and ill-advised pruning - what chance is there for a tree reaching a ripe old age?

It is thought that 80% of Europe's ancient trees reside in the UK; most within 20 miles of a town or village.  Many of the oldest are associated with places of worship.  Indeed Europe's oldest tree (perhaps), the 'Fortingall Yew' in Perthshire, may be in excess of 4000 years old.  How does that equate with the perception of "old" in terms of man made structures?  

 The sustainable management of this invaluable natural resource requires planning to ensure appropriate and adequate legal protection, supported through education and municipal funding, encouraging cyclical maintenance programs, interpretations and provision for replacement, to set the foundations for tomorrow's heritage trees. 

Old trees have never been more 'popular' then they are today.  We have seen the formation of increasing numbers of well intentioned, local and national 'old tree' groups and societies over the last ten years.  The number of high quality publications, illustrating wondrous national and international old trees, is nothing short of astounding, given the level of general public interest only ten years ago.  Clearly, veteran and heritage trees are on the public green agenda, and the 'feel good' factor continues to grow.  Surprisingly, one anomaly in the growth of old tree appreciation is the absence of a corresponding development amongst our nation's professional tree managers.  Horticultural landscape managers, foresters, arborists, conservation managers, wildlife managers and the organisations in which they work have been very slow to realise the importance of the veteran and ancient trees in their care and the responsibility they have for them.  They have been slower still to embrace the techniques and expertise available, through which such trees can be properly conserved.

The practical management options for individual specimen and small groups of trees may differ considerably from those employed in traditional amenity, woodland or commercial forest settings.  The growing public awareness and increasing professional involvement in the management of 'old' trees have led to significant changes and new developments in the techniques engaged to ensure the continued well being of the trees themselves and the associated flora and fauna.

Having revisited historical management principals and practices and combined them with the best of modern technology, we are now in a position to safely conserve these unique habitats.

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