Experiment to find trees of the future
16 August 2011
An experiment is under way to find the garden trees of the future, able to withstand the extremes of weather brought about by climate change and potentially replace any of today's garden favourites which may not survive.
The 2050 Glade, currently being planted at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, is trialling species from all over the world to see how they fare in UK conditions over the next 40 years. It's predicted that in that time the currently temperate climate in England will become more like that in the Mediterranean, with overall temperatures rising by 2-3°C.
The first trees to be planted in the 1 ha (2½ acre) site have already had their first challenging test with the winter of 2010-2011, which saw the coldest December in a century. Many succumbed to cold, including Eucalyptus dalrympleana, African Juniperus procera and Acacia melanxylon.
However there were notable survivors, too. Turkish Mallotus japonicus (kamila trees) and Liquidambar orientalis, both trees with outstanding autumn colour, are now earmarked as possible substitutes for vulnerable species such as Acer which may suffer in the anticipated hotter, drier conditions.
'People are reluctant to change but this is why we've got to start thinking about it now,' said Hugh Angus, Head of Tree Collections at Westonbirt. 'The weight of scientific opinion is that the landscape could look very different in 50 years' time.'
About 50 species, raised from seed collected in countries such as Japan, Chile and Mexico, will be planted to begin with, with casualties replaced with new varieties as the trial proceeds.