Botanics staff move heaven and earth to try to save tree
THE Tree of Heaven is renowned in its homeland for an ability to cure ailments ranging from baldness to mental illness.
Six months on from the storms which wreaked havoc in the Royal Botanic Garden, however, while most of the plants are making a good recovery, one of its rarest treasures is struggling to survive.
The ailanthus altissima – better known as the Tree of Heaven – was brought to Scotland in 1925 by the collector Joseph Rock and had thrived in the Edinburgh attraction.
But as new trees take root in the garden, and many of those damaged continue their recovery, experts are still trying to salvage their prized plant.
After the garden was battered by 100mph hurricane-force winds in January, staff discovered to their horror that the tree was among those which had been uprooted – and so far all attempts to revive it have failed.
David Knott, curator of living collections, told the Evening News: “We are still struggling with the Tree of Heaven. Unfortunately, it was so badly damaged that attempts to propagate it have so far been unsuccessful, but we haven’t given up yet.”
It was one of more than 100 trees damaged in the January storm, which also smashed more than 400 panes of glass.
Many of the trees torn from the ground had stood on the site for several decades, with some as old as 125 years.
David continued: “The clear-up and repair plan is on target, but obviously losing that amount of trees has a significant impact that can’t be fixed overnight. We can replant small trees, but not trees that are 100 years old.”
The curator thanked all those who have so far donated to a fund aimed at repairing the Botanics, currently standing at £25,000. He also praised the staff at the gardens who immediately leapt into action to ensure the gardens could be reopened as quickly as possible.
“The garden staff did a tremendous job – they became instant glaziers! All the broken windows were re-glazed within two weeks and then the removal of the broken glass inside the houses took a further three. However, we are still finding bits of broken glass after all this time.”
Staff are now determined that something positive can be made from the devastation.
David said: “While it’s very sad to lose trees, it has given us the chance to plant new things, which enhances the value of the garden.
“There’s recently been a lot of fieldwork done in Japan by Botanics staff, and there are also lots of new North American plants. So there’s a fair wealth, but it does take a while for plants to establish themselves.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West