Visiting the Great Trees of London One by One

richmond tree photo

Images from The Great Trees of London: Richmond Plane Tree

As a city, London is considered to be green and leafy, with lovely squares and parks filled with large and graceful trees. But the shocking truth is that there are only 56 great trees left in the larger area of London and only 10 in the central part.

A great tree is an old and statuesque one, exceptional for its height and size of trunk and age. And they are disappearing quickly. Time Out, along with Trees for Cities has put out a new little book that lists them all. An energetic and enlightening summer challenge would be to visit each one--on the Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles, as the new rental bike scheme is now being called...

tree book photo

Image from Time Out
What makes a great tree? According to the definition used in the book, it should be publicly accessible (easily viewed from all sides) and meet at least one of three criteria:
* : historically significant - related to past events and/or people, or with a
story to tell
* situated in a landmark location - somewhere special
* be of notable physical character - very large, or old, or of an unusual shape

The Great Trees of London lists 56 trees. It would be a delight to carry out a visit to most of the trees because the book has such good directions and a page of description for each tree. It delves into the locale, the history and the shape and features of the tree itself. It's like looking at a painting: a lesson in observation and appreciation.

marylebone elm photo

Image by B. Alter: Marylebone Elm

The first stop on the Great Tree Challenge. Here is an elm on Marylebone High Street. It is one that is part of my daily route and has never been noticed so carefully before. Known as "The Marylebone Elm", it is a Huntingdon Elm that has escaped the threat of Dutch Elm disease, making it the last elm tree standing in the downtown area. It is 100 feet tall and 150 years old.

brunswick plane photo

The Brunswick Plane Tree

Here's another beauty in a lovely square near the cinema. It's the The Brunswick Plane, one of the original trees planted in Brunswick Square by the Victorians. Plane trees are among the most popular trees planted in streets and parks in Greater London. This elegant one has been left to grow to its natural shape with low swooping branches only a couple of metres off the ground, and a huge trunk and spread of leaves..

james catalpa photo

The St. James's Indian Bean Tree

This Catalpa took two trips to find--it is surrounded by market stalls selling tourist tat in a church courtyard. It's an Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa) but it is not from India--it's from the south-east USA where it was named after the local native American tribe. Planted in 1928, it has already outlived its supposed 60 year lifespan. Apparently church members are nurturing seedlings from the tree in case of its demise.

The Great Trees of London is a carefully and lovingly written guide. There is information on tree species, tree diseases, lists of British native trees and lovely photos. Congratulations to Time Out and Trees for Cities on this wonderful reference book.

More on Great Trees
Britain's Oldest Trees are Becoming Endangered Species
Britain's Oldest Trees on File
Knit Your Own Treehugging Scarf
Run for Trees --Join the Tree -Athlon

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