Did You Know?
- Record Breaking Trees in Scotland
The Role of David Douglas
Perthshire is "Big Tree Country" with acres of woodland and forests, home to some of the most remarkable, tallest and ancient trees and hedges in Europe, with great credit due to the early 19th century local gardener, David Douglas, "the greatest plant and seed collector to walk the earth". Douglas (1799-1834) was born at Scone and began training in the gardens aged just 11 years old. He later sailed to America and worked under the most difficult conditions as his diary reveals."I cannot speak a word to my guide, not a book to read, constantly in expectation of attack and the position I am now in is lying on the grass, with my gun beside me, writing by the light of my candle."
But despite these difficult and unhappy travels, Douglas returned home and introduced more than 200 new plants to Scotland. These include some of the most important trees in our forests. The seeds and samples he brought back seemed to thrive in the conditions of Perthshire, fertile ground, moist soil, good shelter and a long growing season, similar to the North West coast of America, home of giant trees. His most visible mark are the Spruce and Firs - the Douglas Fir is proudly named after him - along with new garden plants, including the lupin and sunflower. The Douglas Fir seen here is in the grounds of Scone Palace and was grown from a seed sent by Douglas from the Columbia River in 1826.
The Record Breakers
One of the tallest trees in Britain is a Douglas Fir and you can see these if you visit the beautiful Hermitage forest a few miles from Perth, at Dunkeld. Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, this is a Must See destination when visiting the area. The waterfalls, rapids, and swirling pools of the River Braan provide the focal point of this wild tree garden. Created by the Dukes of Atholl in the 18th century, it includes two romantic follies. A short nature trail takes you through varied woodland with a good chance of seeing red squirrels.
To many, the location of the tallest tree in Britain may not be all that important - but wherever holds the crown can expect a boost to tourism in its local area. So there was jubilation in 2005 when a Douglas Fir in Reelig Glen woods, Invernesshire was remeasured for a TV programme "Trees Which Made Britain" and was declared to have regained the crown. A Douglas Fir at Powis castle had briefly held the title when it was found to be 205 feet tall. That beat the tree called "Dughall Mor" in the Highlands by two feet - but the Scottish tree was last accurately measured in 2003. So when the BBC film crew arrived, along with officials of the Tree Register of the British Isles, they used the latest laser technology - and found that it was just over 64 metres - 210 feet.
Apart from some of the tallest Douglas Firs, Perthshire boasts a long list of record breaking "champion trees". These include the oldest tree in Europe, the yew at Fortingall (pictured here), estimated to be 3000 -5000 years old. And if you are driving along the A93, east of Dunkeld at Meikleour you are unlikely to miss a magnificent beech hedge as it stands 36 metres (120 feet) high and a third of a mile long. The trees were planted in 1745 and are now officially recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest hedge in the world. See the picture below.
Other record breakers include the widest conifer in Britain at Cluny House Gardens, Perthshire. It is 11 metres in girth and over 130 years old. The tallest Sitka spruce in Britain grows at Strathearn, Perthshire. It is 61 metres (200 feet) tall. And the tallest Japanese larch in Britain is in Diana's Grove at Blair Castle, Perthshire. There are more than 20 trees there topping 150 feet (45.7 metres).
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