Unusual Trees around Manchester

Unusual Trees to Look Out for (2)

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Pinus aristata (Pinaceae), Bristlecone (Rocky Mountain) Pine 165/026

Aristata means bristle-tip, referring to the cone segments.  The genus contains three species, including the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva, which is thought to be the oldest living tree in North America.  A ring count from a core sample gives an age of 4,700 years.  The third species is Pinus balfouriana, or Foxtail Pine.  All three are rare, and grow in the mountains of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and other western states.  It was introduced here in 1863; the oldest known dated British tree is at Kew.  It was planted in 1908 and in 1972 was 20’ x 1’-7”.  Our three photographs are of a specimen aristata in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester.

“It differs most conspicuously from the two other bristlecone pine species in that the needles usually have only one, (only rarely two) resin canals, and these are commonly interrupted and broken, leading to highly characteristic small white resin flecks appearing on the needles. This feature, which looks a bit like dandruff on the needles, is diagnostic of Pinus aristata; no other pine shows it.” –Wikipedia

Ancient Bristlecone pine at 3000m on Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Unfortunately, my digital camera can’t cope very well with chiaroscuro contrasts, but I can assure you the white flecks are copiously present on the Wythenshawe Park tree’s needles.

Grindon Herbarium sheet with history of discovery of P. aristata

-Daniel King

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Unusual Trees to Look Out for (1)

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Unusual Trees to Look Out for (1)

Sciadopitys verticillata (Sciadopityaceae), Umbrella Pine 165/025

Sciadopitys is from two Greek roots, meaning (YES!) ‘umbrella’ and ‘pine’.  Verticillata means ‘whorled’.  A native tree of Japan, there called Koyamaki, it is said to be rare now.

“The Koyamaki was chosen as the Japanese Imperial crest for Prince Hisahito of Akishino, currently third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne.” – Wikipedia.

It was introduced by John Gould Veitch into Britain in 1860.  As you might guess from its appearance, it’s not a pine at all.  It’s the sole member of the family Sciadopityaceae, and is a living fossil, having been present in the fossil record for 230 million years – the first known examples appearing in the Triassic period.  At one time it was more widespread; fossils have been found in northern Europe.  Research using infrared microspectroscopy has revealed that some of its close family members among the Sciadopityaceae are the source of Baltic amber.  (It used to be thought that the amber was from members of the Araucariaceae and Pinaceae families.)

A spider and ant trapped in Baltic amber. The small stellate hairs are from the amber tree.

It has no close relatives, although it was formerly classified as a member of the family Taxodiaceae. (Demonstrating these matters of classification to be even more fluid, recent research has shown the Taxodiaceae to be part of the Cupressaceae family, which includes the cypresses, redwoods, cryptomerias, cedars and others.  Even the usually authoritative International Plant Names Index still shows the tree as being in the Taxodiaceae.)

Our first two photographs are of a specimen tree in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester.  I’ve also spotted a young tree, not much over a meter high, in the botanical woodlands at Portmeirion.

Portmeirion woodlands, 2009

Mature cone, New York Botanical Garden

Sheet from our Grindon Herbarium with illustrations from Louis van Houtte’s Flore des serres et des jardins de l’Europe and articles from The Gardener’s Chronicle and elsewhere.

-Daniel King