Will I find my tree of the year?

I’ve been looking for a tree to nominate for the Tree of the Year award. All trees in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible. The nomination deadline is noon on 19th July, 2019.

Winning trees in previous years have been magnificent. In 2014 the English winner was the Major Oak in Nottinghamshire. Thought to be between 800 and 1000 years old, the tree’s trunk has a girth of 10 metres.

In 2017 the Welsh winner was the Hollow Oak in Neath. Its trunk has been completely hollow for the last 70 years and is fitted with bars to support its structure.

Last year the Northern Irish winner was a 160-year-old Redwood with 19 separate trunks.

Can I find a tree to nominate that’s as impressive as those?

My first step in my hunt for an impressive tree was to check out the trees listed on local government websites.

Hillingdon Council in Greater London, England, highlight a London Plane planted between 100 and 150 years ago in Cowley Recreation Ground. I went to visit and take a few photos.

As you can see from the pictures below, it’s a very big tree with a sizeable girth.

London Planes are known for their tolerance of air pollution, which is why so many were planted in smoggy London in the 19th century.

The London Plane is not a native English tree. It was first planted here in the 17th century. One of the first known London Planes was planted in Ely, Cambridgeshire in 1680.

The 17th-century botanist John Tradescant the Younger is said to have discovered a London Plane sapling in his garden in Vauxhall. It probably caused a lot of excitement because at that time it was a new tree. The London Plane is a hybrid of the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane. If the Tradescant story is true it means the London Plane really did begin life in London!

However, some people think the hybridisation first happened in Spain and the tree was then brought to Britain.

We’ll probably never know the true origins of the London Plane tree. What is without a doubt is that before European colonisation of North America the London Plane tree would not have been possible.

In some ways that makes the London Plane a tree with emotional baggage. European colonisation of the Americas resulted in the deaths of millions of indigenous people and the loss of entire cultures.

Of course, that’s not the London Plane’s fault. It’s just one of hundreds of plant species now in Britain as a result of the so called “Age of Discovery.”

In central London it’s common to see another American visitor, the grey squirrel, playing around London Plane trees. Grey squirrels, brought to these shores in the 1800s, eat the seeds of London Planes.

Sadly, the London Plane tree isn’t popular with other wildlife. So for that reason I’m not going to nominate the Hillingdon one for Tree of the Year 2019.

My hunt continues!

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