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New trees take root in the UK and Ireland

14 special species and hybrids of trees discovered by UK botanists

 

 Welsh Whitebeam, Llangollen Whitebeam and Stirton's Whitebeam are three of 14 new types of tree which can be seen across the country; some named after those who found them or where they were discovered and others according to what they look like.

Botanists at National Museum Cardiff in conjunction with scientists from Bristol University, Exeter University, Oxford University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have named new kinds of tree in Wales, England and Ireland, all of which are rare and need to be protected.

Of the 14 finds which have this week been named officially in Watsonia, the scientific journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, six occur in Wales. These are:

• Stirton's Whitebeam (Sorbus stirtoniana) which can only be found in one place in the World - on the cliffs of Craig Breidden, Montgomeryshire; • Llangollen Whitebeam (Sorbus cuneifolia) - a rare tree confined to the cliffs of Eglwyseg Mountain, Denbighshire where about 240 plants are known; • Welsh Whitebeam (Sorbus cambrensis) found in the Brecon Beacons west of Abergavenny and Llanthony Valley Whitebeam (Sorbus stenophylla) - two closely related species from Wales; • Doward Whitebeam (Sorbus eminentiformis) known only from the Wye Valley in England and Wales; • Motley's Whitebeam (Sorbus ? motleyi) - a new hybrid from one site near Merthyr Tydfil, where two young trees have been discovered.

"The announcement of Motley's Whitebeam this year is timely as we celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth and 150 years since the publication of On the Origins of Species," said Dr Tim Rich, Head of Vascular Plants, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales who has named the new tree.

"This tree is an example of evolution in action. It originated as a cross between Ley's Whitebeam and Rowan in a wood near Merthyr Tydfil after the 1989 Hurricane created the right condition for it."

These new finds, in addition to seven new types in England and one in Ireland are all members of the Sorbus group, which includes whitebeams, rowans and service trees, increasing the number of this type of tree by over 50%.

Dr Rich led this project which was primarily funded by The Leverhulme Foundation and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, with contributions from Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He continued:

"Some of these trees have probably developed recently and are examples of on-going evolution of new species. Others are older types which have been known for some time but are only now described as ‘species' thanks to modern DNA methods."

The type specimens of the trees are held in the Welsh National Herbarium at National Museum Cardiff, and three of the Welsh species - Stirton's Whitebeam, Motley's Whitebeam and Welsh Whitebeam can be seen growing at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Amgueddfa Cymru offers free admission to its sites thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government. Amgueddfa Cymru operates seven national museums across Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans: National History Museum, National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre, National Slate Museum, Llanberis and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.

Ends

For further information, photograph or interview opportunities, please contact Catrin Mears, Communications Officer, on 029 2057 3185/07920 027067 or email catrin.mears@museumwales.ac.uk.

 

Date: 18 February 2009
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