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£60k move means it's a strawberry tree forever

IT TOOK £60,000, a 500-tonne crane and three years of nurturing, but a rare tree has finally been saved from the bulldozers by the simple act of moving it 35 metres.

The native Californian Madrona – or strawberry tree – had been growing in the middle of a site earmarked for housing in Trinity.

But when Trinity Gardens got the go-ahead, a Tree Preservation Order was put on the tree, one of only three examples of the species in the Capital.

This sparked a major conservation effort and the strawberry tree has now successfully been moved – all of 35 metres from its original location.

Initial work saw two years of pruning the canopy and roots before digging around the tree and creating a root ball which was lifted by a 500-tonne crane using a sling system.

The tree was put into place last November but experts have had to wait until now to see if it started flowering, as proof that the move has been a success.

There are thought to be just 15 examples of the trees – which have red bark and grow strawberry-like red berries – in Scotland.

The only other two known in Edinburgh are at the Royal Botanic Garden.

Tree experts today paid tribute to the operation to move the tree. Peter Brownless, garden supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden, told the Evening News: "The tree has transplanted well and although it has taken a while to wake up after the winter, it is wonderful to see fresh buds and leaves on the tree finally bursting into life.

"It is great to see a property developer going to these lengths because it is a rare tree.

"The space needed to grow the trees means you are only likely to see them in stately homes and botanical gardens these days.

"The Victorians were very keen on their oneupmanship and that is why they were popular for a time, but they sadly became victims of fashion."

Known as arbutus menziesii, Madronas are named after Archibald Menzies, the Scottish botanist and surgeon who was the first person to describe the tree botanically.

He saw his first specimen on May 2, 1792, in what is now Jefferson County in the United States' Washington State, and introduced it to Europe when he came home in 1795.

They were seen as a status symbol by Victorians, and planted in gardens by owners who wanted to show off the fact that they owned newly-discovered specimens.

Tree management expert Eamonn Wall, who helped in the move, said: "It's been an exciting project managing the transplant of such a magnificent tree.

"Great care has been taken to maintain the natural beauty onsite.

"The original stone boundary wall at Trinity Gardens conceals the gem of its namesake – a private garden sanctuary brought into the 21st century in a beautiful modern interpretation of a traditional Victorian estate.

"The strawberry tree has been a real talking point onsite and we are really pleased with the outcome."

George Walsh-Waring of Trinity Gardens' developer Meyer Bergman said: "We are delighted that we have been able to successfully relocate the tree and hope it will grow for many more years to come in its new home."

Trinity's gardens were originally cultivated around two Victorian houses built on the site, which later formed Trinity College.

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