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The 'Great Storm' of 1987

Turner's oak

On 15 October 1987 a forceful storm battered the UK and felled around 15 million trees nationwide.

Kew lost nearly 700 trees, mainly mature specimens. However with this damage came a fortuitous opportunity to revive the health of some of the arboretum's older trees. 

The story of Turner's Oak and how storm damage encouraged new growth

The storm lifted this tree’s root plate right up, then resettled it back down and, unusually, this didn’t kill the tree.

Before the storm the tree had shown signs of stress, its roots having become compacted by people sheltering under it for years.

After the storm it had a new lease of life. Its roots had been 'decompacted' and had more space, air and water to help the tree flourish.

Seeing this, Kew’s staff quickly developed decompaction methods for use on other trees. This involves injecting nitrogen gas underground using an 'Airspade'. It works and trees start to show improvement a year after treatment.

In pictures: Damage from the 'Great Storm'

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