8 April 2014
Over 50 years after it was originally planted, a 21-metre high Magnolia sprengeri at the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt has been officially named at last.
Known locally as the ‘Diva’, the goddess magnolia tree at Westonbirt is the tallest specimen of its kind in the British Isles and is a champion tree; an accolade awarded by the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland.
Over the years, acclaimed for its stunning spring display of abundant pink blooms, the tree has grown in both stature and reputation and has now been officially registered with The Magnolia Society as Magnolia sprengeri ‘Westonbirt Diva.’
The specimen is a direct descendant of the original tree grown at Caerhays Castle in Cornwall from seeds brought back from China to the UK in the early 1900s, by prolific plant hunter E H Wilson.
Westonbirt’s resident dendrologist, tree expert Dan Crowley, said:
“This tree is a real favourite at the arboretum, so it is great to be able to include Westonbirt in its name and officially call it ‘Westonbirt Diva’.
“Historical records confirm it came to us direct from Caerhays Castle in Cornwall, which is home to the National Magnolia Collection.
“It feels great to have the history, identity and name of this signature spring tree confirmed and on the record.”
‘Westonbirt Diva’, is now in bloom, much to the delight of visitors, volunteers and staff at the attraction, who eagerly await its stunning large pink flowers each spring.
The arboretum is currently undertaking a verification project to confirm the identity of a number of priority tree groups in its collection.
The aim of the project is to improve the quality of curation at the arboretum, to ensure it continues to develop as a world-class resource for science and learning about trees.
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, which is cared for by the Forestry Commission, has more than 140 magnolia trees, made up of specimens from 20 species and cultivars.
The Magnolia genus is an ancient group of more than 100 species, which were among the first flowering plants to evolve.
Pre-dating the emergence of bees, early species of magnolia were pollinated by beetles.
The species is a native of western China and has become a popular ornamental addition to gardens in the UK.
You can find out more about spring at Westonbirt Arboretum by visiting www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-spring
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NOTES TO EDITOR
Images attached: Magnolia sprengeri var. sprengeri ‘Westonbirt Diva’
1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to five national collections, the arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains nearly 15,000 labelled specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 27,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk.
Caerhays Castle: www.caerhays.co.uk
Magnolia Society: www.magnoliasociety.org