More notable trees
Tulip Trees, Liriodendron tulipifera & Liriodendron chinense
The North American species of tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, was first introduced to Britain in 1688 and a specimen planted in the 1770’s still grows in the Azalea Garden off Princess Walk. The Chinese tulip tree, Liriodendron chinense, a far superior species, wasn’t introduced until 1901 by Ernest Wilson.
In 1996 an expedition from Kew to Dabashan in Sichuan, China collected seeds from a single specimen found in primary forest. The seed produced only a handful of young trees, so in 1999 the Kew team revisited the Dabashan area and from co-ordinates using GPS taken in 1996 found the same tree standing alone as an isolated specimen, since most of the large surrounding trees had been felled for timber. The tall tree had been retained and used as an anchor for a skyline to extract timber to the roadside and had produced lots of good seed from the stress placed upon it.
In 2001, from this second seed collection, 28 young trees were planted to recreate the old “Tulip Tree Avenue” in the arboretum at Kew, albeit with the Chinese species instead of the North American.
This is a very rare, threatened tree in the wild, fast disappearing due to large scale felling. There are few trees in collections growing from known wild origin and this mass planting represents a good collection of genetic diversity, vital for the conservation and the long-term preservation of this primitive species.
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