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27 MAY 2002NEWS RELEASE No: 4915

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Wales is home to one of the world’s rarest species of tree – the Ley’s Whitebeam or Sorbus leyana. Only 16 of these exist in the world and now the Tree Council has singled out one of the trees, owned by Forest Enterprise Wales, for a special tribute to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

Fifty different trees out of hundreds of nominations have been chosen to celebrate the Jubilee – one for every year of the Queen’s reign. The special tree tribute has been devised because they symbolise the roots of history and national heritage. Each tree has been selected because of its uniqueness - age, size, rarity and historic value.

The particular Ley’s Whitebeam to be singled out grows next to the Rangers’s office near Forest Enterprise’s Visitor Centre in Garwnant, near Merthyr Tydfil. It is a distinctive tree, chosen because it is the only one of a rare species growing in a public area and accessible for all to visit and enjoy.

“We are very honoured to have one of our trees singled out to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee,” said David Rees, Conservation Manager, Forest Enterprise Wales. “It is a tribute to our forest managers that Wales is home to so many special types of trees and woodlands.

"What is so nice is that, because it is in such a public place, we can mark the tree and local people and visitors alike can reflect on the Jubilee in years to come. We also hope it will serve to attract more people into our woods for healthy recreation over the summer months.”

At present, there is a total wild population of only 16 established Ley’s Whitebeam trees in the world. These can only be found on the steep rocky limestone crags in the Penmoelallt Woodland and the Darren Fach Nature Reserves of the Taff Valley in South Wales which is a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Ley’s Whitebeam was discovered and named in the 19th Century by Reverend Augustin Ley. Today they are a very difficult species to breed due to their small population and poor germination and are also considered to be very unusual because it is a hybrid of the mountain ash or rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and the rock whitebeam (Sorbus rupicola).

The famous British author, Richard Mabey in his book, ‘The Common Ground’, described Ley’s Whitebeam as “possibly Britain’s rarest plant internationally" and it is under so much scrutiny that the species is now classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ and receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Forest Enterprise Wales, as custodian of the tree, was presented with a certificate and a commemorative plaque to place near the tree as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.



Forest Enterprise is an agency of the Forestry Commission in Wales which manages the nation’s woodlands on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Information Officer for Wales, Clive Davies, on 01970 625866, mobile 07788 190922.

For more information about the Ley’s Whitebeam tree, contact David Rees on 01550 720 394.

More information on the woodlands of Wales can also be found on the Forestry Commission’s website – www.forestry.gov.uk

e-mail: david.rees@forestry.gsi.gov.uk