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Tree of the month - a monumental rowan

Rowan trees thrive in difficult conditions and can be found in some extreme locations. Therefore it can be a risky business to get these trees recorded. Despite this a rowan of amazing proportions has recently been discovered in Herefordshire.

A monumental rowan

Most of the 154 ancient rowans recorded on the Ancient Tree Inventory live up to their other common name, Mountain Ash and can be found in rather extreme locations. Hotspots such as the Yorkshire Dales and ancient wood pasture sites in Scotland make discovering and recording these trees quite a challenge.

The rowan thrives in a harsh environment and will grow on rock with just a handful of soil, often taking root as a cuckoo tree, seeding into the decaying bole of another tree. Some of the largest trees have been discovered in mountainous areas, where slow growth has contributed to longevity.

In the warmer south of the UK, on fertile sites, this tree grows rapidly but has a relatively short life span and is rarely seen as a big or old tree. Herefordshire, where the geology of fertile sandstone soils creates ideal conditions with often exceptional growth, has long been a tree-hunter’s paradise, but its rolling hills are only just revealing some of its ancient trees.

We are indebted to tree recorder David Griffiths who discovered and recorded this quite remarkable rowan on the north side of Cole’s Hill, north-west of Kinsham. The tree was verified by Brian Jones who confirmed it is 4.5m girth, which beats the current British biggest champion at Kingussie in the Highlands.

The tree is on private property, away from a public footpath but landowner Trevor Joseph, who farms at Kinsham, is “very pleased to have a record tree on his land” and has very kindly confirmed that he is happy for people to visit.

Rowan and other smaller growing species are often unrecorded, although they may be the oldest living thing in the area. If you don’t see big oak, beech or Sweet chestnut when out for a walk, take another look at the smaller trees – you may in for a surprise and find a champion tree into the bargain!