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09:25 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 10:25 UK

The great trees of London

The Marylebone Elm

After the Great Storm of 1987, Londoners were asked to nominate the capital's leading landmark trees.

41 were officially awarded "Great Tree" status in 1988 with plaques erected next to each tree.

A further 20 trees were named in 2008 after independent charity, Trees for Cities, asked the public to nominate trees from across London.

We take a look at some of the finest trees in London.

THE BEXLEY CHARTER OAK Quercus robur

The Bexley Charter Oak

Standing proudly on its own within the historic landscape of Danson Park, this Oak has a full and well-balanced crown. The tree is over 200 years old and is near to the recently restored Danson House.
It is an important landmark which appears on the borough coat of arms. The borough charter was signed underneath it in 1937 which changed Bexley from an Urban District Council to a Municipal Borough.

FULHAM PALACE OAK Quercus ilex

Fulham Palace

This 500-year-old oak is a fantastic specimen and the oldest of its kind in Britain.

Growing in the well-kept grounds of Fulham Palace, it is just one of many beautiful trees.

The Palace is well worth a visit too, built at the same time the tree was planted.

TREE OF HEAVEN Ailanthus altissima

The Tree of Heaven

This beautiful tree is within Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith.

It is a fantastic specimen and one of the largest found in the UK.

Incidentally, if you look across the park from this tree you will see a Plane with an extraordinarily wide girth in relation to its height.

Two fascinating trees in one park.

ST. JAMES' CHURCH INDIAN BEAN TREE Catalpa bignoniodes

St. James' Church Indian Bean Tree

An old and interesting specimen of this relatively uncommon tree species, thriving in the heart of London's busy West End.

This tree creates a tranquil setting in St James's churchyard, particularly when in flower during the summer months.

The tree is not from India but from the south east of America where it was named after the local native American tribe.

The midsummer white flowers are followed by thin, green, bean-like pods (which turn brown) up to 40cm long.

THE MARYLEBONE ELM Ulmus x hollandica 'vegeta'

The Marylebone Elm

The Marylebone Elm, a Huntingdon Elm, has escaped the threat of Dutch Elm disease, making it the last Elm tree standing in Westminster.

It still thrives and produces flowers every year. There are no mature English Elms in London and Huntingdon Elms like this example are a rare find.

Dutch Elm disease devastated Elm populations in Europe in the 1970s. Part of the reason why this fungal disease was so rampant is that the roots of Elm trees are able to graft or fuse with the roots of their neighbours, helping the spread of the fungus. Often a group of Elms living together should really be considered a single plant.

THE BRUNSWICK PLANE Platanus x acerifolia

The Brunswick Plane

The Brunswick Plane is one of the original trees planted in Brunswick Square, Camden, by the Victorians.

This elegant London Plane specimen has been left to grow to its natural shape with low swooping branches only a couple of metres off the ground, and with a huge trunk and spread of leaves from spring to autumn.

Generally Plane trees found in urban areas tend to either have very long trunks with few lower branches due to pruning.

Plane trees are among the most numerous large street and park trees planted in Greater London.

THE BERKELEY PLANE Platanus x acerifolia

The Berkeley Plane

This Victorian Plane in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, was valued in 2008 at Britain's most expensive tree. It was assessed according to its size, health, history and how many people live nearby. The value was an astonishing £750,000.

Planted in 1789, the Plane tree has a circumference of 6ft (1.8m).

Berkeley Square contains 31 precious trees, all of which are at least 200 years old.

The bark is unusual and the longevity of the trees is down to the nature of their composition.

The bark flakes off, and in doing so, sheds pollutants that may interfere with air reaching the trunk.

This is one of the reasons why the tree has thrived in London during periods of serious air pollution.

THE BATTERSEA PARK HYBRID STRAWBERRY TREE Arbutus x andrachnoides

The Hybrid Strawberry Tree

An unusual species, particularly rare in London.

This tree typifies the beautiful red bark of this species and has an interesting trunk form.

The lower trunk has an extremely large girth, possibly the largest for a hybrid strawberry tree in the country.

By late autumn the creamy white pitcher-shaped flowers hang in clusters, often accompanied by small red strawberry-like fruits, formed from the previous year's flowers.

SPANISH SWEET CHESTNUT Castanea sativa

Spanish Sweet Chestnut tree

Nearly 400 years old, this Sweet Chestnut has an enormous trunk and bears evidence of pollarding in its early life.

Like many of the trees in the Flower Garden at Greenwich Park this tree is an excellent specimen and has been well cared for over the centuries.

In autumn it produces edible nuts that have been eaten for centuries.

Trees for Cities

For more information about all of London's Great Trees visit the Trees for Cities website. Detailed directions are also listed.

GREAT TREES OF LONDON


A Great Tree of London Plaque

Trees for Cities is an independent charity that plants trees and re-landscapes public spaces in urban areas of greatest need.

Autumnwatch

The BBC's Autumnwatch team returns on 2 October 2009.

Autumnwatch will reflect the whole journey of autumn as it sweeps over Great Britain including a look at local London events and news of a world record tree planting day.




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Autumnwatch
Trees for Cities
Trees at Kew
Science and Nature
London Trees
Forestry Commission
London Wildlife Trust
London Tree Officer's Assocation
BBC Breathing Places
Fulham Palace
Friends of Ravenscourt Park


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