Sidmouth's global skyline
PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:24 27 March 2018
Monterey pines can be seen across the Sidmouth skyline. Ed Dolphin takes a look at this majestic tree.
Many splendid mature Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) adorn our local skyline. This is why Sidmouth Arboretum has adopted them as the signature tree of the valley, in other words, a tree which reflects and enhances the history and landscape of the valley.
The Sid valley has a wonderful legacy of mature trees planted in Victorian and Edwardian gardens, as the wealthy residents competed to have the latest and most interesting finds brought from around the world.
One of the greatest plant nurseries of the time was run by the Veitch family in Exeter. Several sons of the Veitch family were intrepid plant hunters who scoured remote areas of the world in search of new species, but they also employed many professional plant hunters, the most notable being the brothers William and Thomas Lobb, and E H ‘Chinese’ Wilson.
Monterey pines were first described to European scientists in 1831 by the Irish botanist Dr Thomas Coulter from his exploration of the Monterey Peninsula of modern day California. In 1852, William Lobb sent a large consignment of Pinus radiata seeds from California to the Veitch nursery. James Veitch’s team raised several hundred young trees and sold them to gardens and estates all along the south coast. The large knarled tree in the Knowle, number 1,200 in the Sidmouth Arboretum on-line tree catalogue, may be from one of those seeds.
Most of the historic gardens have now been subdivided for development, but the trees remain to signal days of former glory. Just recently we received a donation of several young Monterey pines to the arboretum, grown from seed collected at Knowle perhaps 10 years ago. These trees have been planted out in public and private parks and gardens.
Monterey pines are now endangered in their original home, but they thrive in New Zealand, Spain and South Africa where there are extensive timber plantations. The landscape of their original home has been prone to bush fires for millennia and the trees have adapted to survive by developing very thick bark.
Unlike the cones of Scots Pine, the large cones of Monterey pines remain closed to protect the seeds. The cones usually open to release seeds after they have been exposed to a fire. Of course, the local trees do not suffer from bush fires and so they retain their tightly closed cones. The clusters of large cones, along with the needles in groups of three, make the mature Monterey pines easy to identify as they rise above the buildings around Sidmouth.
To learn more about trees around the world, come along to a free illustrated talk ‘Sidmouth’s Global Skyline’ at 2pm, on Tuesday, April 17, in Kennaway House Cellar Bar.
Sidmouth Arboretum Tree Week April 16-21 includes talks and walks and visits. Full details of the events are available on the website www.sidmoutharboretum.org.uk