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University rewarded for care of ancient trees

The University of St Andrews has been honoured for looking after two of Scotland’s most special trees – one which was thought to have been planted by Mary, Queen of Scots and one which is the largest recorded Holm oak in Scotland.

Queen Mary’s Hawthorn and the St Andrews Holm Oak, which both stand in the University’s ancient St Mary’s Quadrangle, have been included in the Forestry Commission Scotland’s 100 ‘Heritage Trees of Scotland’.

The Commission had organised a country-wide hunt for Scotland’s most special trees in order to raise public awareness for our exceptional heritage and the top 100 trees feature in a new book, Heritage Trees of Scotland.

The University will be presented with commemorative plaques at a ceremony in St Andrews today (Friday 23 January 2004).

According to the Heritage Trees listing: “Queen Mary’s Hawthorn is living proof that trees don’t always have to be big to be important. The venerable old hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) was – according to legend – planted in 1563 by Mary, Queen of Scots, on one of her many visits to the town. Despite its rather battered appearance, the decayed stump retains much character and an air of importance. It is almost as if it knows its reputation as a living link with one of Scotland’s most famous historical figures, so that it doggedly continues to survive by producing new and vigorous growth from around the decayed and shattered hulk of the original tree.

“The St Andrews Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), by contrast, is a fine, healthy specimen of a species that was introduced to Great Britain in about 1500, and is one of few good examples of the species in Scotland. Thought to have been planted about 1740, its short trunk is an impressive 3.67 metres (12 feet) in girth, the largest recorded for Holm oak in Scotland. The shapely crown had to be heavily pruned after recent storm damage, but it is recovering well and putting on vigorous new growth.”

Presenting the award to the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Brian Lang, Syd House of Forestry Commission Scotland, said:

“One of our aims in launching the Heritage Trees of Scotland promotion was to raise public awareness of Scotland’s exceptional heritage of remarkable trees, and of the need to care for them so that future generations will continue to derive the same enjoyment and appreciation of them. We are therefore delighted to be able to honour the University of St Andrews’ role as custodians of these two special trees.”

Professor Christopher Smout, Emeritus Professor of History at the University, was also in attendance at the ceremony. An expert and author on Scottish woodland history, he commented:

“Veteran trees like these are a special link to the past: no other living things are as old, or gather so many legends around them. It is wonderful that St Andrews has two in the same quadrangle.”

The plaques presented to the University were made of wood taken from another special Scottish tree, a larch from Dunkeld, Perthshire. Planted about 1750, it was one of the first European larches ever planted in Scotland, which had to be felled recently after becoming diseased.

‘Heritage Trees of Scotland’ features some of Scotland’s oldest, rarest, tallest, widest, weirdest, most interesting and historically or culturally most significant trees. When the promotion was launched in 2002, dozens of members of the public from all parts of Scotland contacted the Commission to nominate candidate trees. The final 100 were selected from more than 150 candidates by an expert panel of judges.


Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

 

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