Forestry Commission logo

Did You Know?

Interesting and unusual facts about some of the trees you can see in the National Pinetum:

  • The General Sherman, a giant redwood in the USA, is thought to weigh more than 1000 cars

  • Some bristlecone pines can live for 4500 years and still keep growing


  • Scots pine.Scots pine is one of only three native conifers (together with yew and common juniper) that re-colonised Britain following the last ice age.


  • There are lots of dawn redwoods planted in botanic collections worldwide, but they all come from the same few wild trees. It’s like having lots of photocopies of one page in a book. To save the dawn redwood we need copies of the whole book!


  • Swamp cypresses have an unusual feature – woody projections of the root system which stick up above the ground, known as ‘knees’ or ‘pneumatophores’. These carry oxygen from the air down to roots in waterlogged ground and may also help to stabilise the tree.


  • The old drive to Bedgebury Manor House through the Pinetum is lined on both sides with Lawson cypresses. We intend to replace any lost trees with new ones grown from wild-collected seed. This means we can conserve as much natural genetic variety as possible.


  • Prince Albert is thought to have started the fashion for Norway spruce Christmas trees in 1841 when he had one decorated at Windsor Castle.


  • The young shoot tips of the Oriental spruce can be brewed to make a refreshing tea, rich in Vitamin C.


  • The Jeffrey pine was named after the Scottish botanist John Jeffrey, who discovered it and sent seed back to Britain. In 1854 Jeffrey disappeared while travelling across the Colorado Desert. Despite attempts to find him, he was never seen again.


  • Four ginkgo trees survived the Hiroshima atom bomb explosion in 1945 and are still alive today.


  • When the Wellingtonia was first named an argument arose as to whether it should be called Washingtonia (after the first American President) or Wellingtonia after the Duke of Wellington.


  • Coast redwoodThe coast redwood is the world's tallest tree. The tree's Latin name Sequoia comes from the name of the Native American who invented the Cherokee alphabet.


  • You are very unlikely to see a South Esk pine in the UK – we think the ones in the National Pinetum might be some of the only ones growing outside in British gardens at the moment.


  • Japanese cedar timber turns dark green when it is buried in the ground. The Japanese regard this green wood as being very precious and use it to decorate objects such as cabinets.


  • The deodar cedar produces a natural oil which is used in modern aromatherapy to treat hair loss and stress. It’s also an antiseptic and an effective insect repellent.


  • Common juniper is one of only three native conifers to the UK. It is the most widely distributed tree or shrub in the Northern Hemisphere.


  • Today the nose cones of intercontinental ballistic missiles are made from Sitka spruce because, when the missile re-enters the earth’s atmosphere, it burns up with less heat than metal.


  • The oak with the biggest girth in Britain, the Bowthorpe oak in Lincolnshire, has a hollow trunk that was once said to be big enough to hold twenty people seated for dinner. It is thought to be about 1000 years old.


  • The Douglas fir ranks second only to the coast redwood in being the world’s tallest tree. The tallest Douglas fir currently stands at over one hundred metres tall - taller than Big Ben and only a few metres short of the record.


  • The needle-like leaves of the Japanese umbrella pine are not leaves at all – they are actually flattened green stems that do the same job.


  • The European larch can survive winter temperatures as low as –50°C. It loses its needles in wWESTERN HEMLOCK (Tsuga heterophylla). SPRING. BEDGEBURY PINETUMinter to help it to survive in such extreme conditions.


  • Bedgebury's Leyland cypresses are some of the finest examples you are likely to see. However, their size makes you realise why people have problems with them in gardens – they need plenty of room!


  • Western hemlocks were named after the poisonous hemlock plant because the smell of their needles was thought to be similar. The plants are not in fact related.


  • The grand fir is aptly named – it is the largest of all the firs. Some individuals on Vancouver Island approach 75m in height. At 51m tall The Old Man of Kent at Bedgebury, also a grand fir, is Kent’s largest tree.


  • Bedgebury’s Visitor Centre is heated by burning woodchips produced from home-grown sweet chestnut coppice.


  • Many yews in the UK are known to be over 1000 years old and could be much older. The oldest known living specimen, the Fortingall yew in Perthshire, is estimated to be several thousand years old.


  • American sweetgum resin is an ingredient in ‘Friar’s Balsam’, a commercial preparation used to treat colds and skin problems. It can also be used to make chewing gum.

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.