Their purpose is to gather wild seed from some of the tallest, largest and rarest trees on the planet and bring it back to Bedgebury. The 128ha pinetum in Kent grows and plants thousands of tree and shrub seedlings every year, distributing the surplus to botanic gardens across the UK and Europe as well as providing seed for the Millenium Seed Bank.
The group will travel thousands of miles through lush rainforests, mountains and coastal regions for three weeks from 3 September. Using their field work, climbing and horticulture skills, they hope to collect seed from endangered and enigmatic species such as the Santa Lucia fir (Abies bracteata), bristle-cone pine (Pinus longeava), some of which are the oldest living trees in the world, and coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), which are the tallest trees in the world.
Pinetum dendrologist Dan Luscombe will be joined by colleagues John Allen and Luke Wallace, as well as partners from the Forestry Commission's National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire, and University of Oxford Botanic Gardens and Harcourt Arboretum. Local expertise and support will be provided by the US Forest Service and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Los Angeles.
For Luscombe the visit will fulfil a "lifelong dream" to visit the Pacific Northwest and see the trees in their natural environment.
"Having the opportunity to not only see them, but to collect seeds from them and bring them back to grow and plant out at Bedgebury as part of our tree conservation work, is icing on the cake," he said.
"Knowing that these seeds will one day become towering giants at Bedgebury to be enjoyed by future generations is what makes my job so rewarding."
The pinetum is home to a grand silver fir tree called the "Old Man of Kent", the county's tallest tree. The team hopes to bring back and propagate wild seed of the species which can one day replace the "Old Man" when it comes to the end of its natural life.
Luke Wallace, who is employed by the Friends of Bedgebury, will keep a daily written and photographic account. The information will be used to produce on-site interpretation, publications and material for the popular seasonal walking trails at Bedgebury. He will post updates and photos from the expedition on the Friends' Facebook page.