Wyevale Nurseries in Hereford has given Eastnor Castle, which is located at the foot of the Malvern Hills, a rare native tree called the Whitty Pear or Sorb Tree also known as the ‘True Service Tree’, Sorbus domestica.
Stephen Ashworth, director at Wyevale Nurseries, said: "The donation was suggested by Hereford Botanical Society’s Chairman, Jean Wynne-Jones, and we were very happy to offer as Eastnor Castle’s Arboretum has one of the county’s outstanding tree collections and we were delighted to be able to help expand its collection.
"The tree donated is typically a native of southern Europe, but discovered in 1983 to be resident and native here in Britain. A remnant population of dwarfed, wizened trees hugs the steepest, remotest, cliffs at rare intervals along the coast of South Wales and even as close to our area as the rocky crags of the Wye and Severn estuaries.
"This particular tree is vegetatively propagated from the population at Porthkerry, near Cardiff, which I located together with the man who discovered the first ever recorded British tree of its kind, Marc Hampton. Raised and grown on at Wyevale Nurseries the tree will likely grow in cultivation like a Rowan (and resemble in leaf), but has large fruits rather like a crab apple or are occasionally pear-shaped. Surely this is the rarest British native tree and has laid low and unnoticed for so long.
"I was invited along to Eastnor Castle recently to help with the planting of the tree. Castle owner, James Hervey-Bathurst, used a spade freshly restored and famously last used by Queen Mary while visiting in 1937 to plant an English Oak in the grounds. The tree planted on that occasion still prospers there. This time the spade was used to plant what is surely Britain’s rarest native tree!"
James Hervey-Bathurst, Eastnor Castle owner, said: "We much appreciate the generous gift of this rare specimen, which will be quite at home at Eastnor, even amongst the Cedars and Wellingtonias. It is a privilege to be playing a part in preserving this indigenous tree and good to use the historic spade to complete the planting."
Ron Layton, head gardener at Eastnor Castle, said: "We are fortunate at Eastnor to be guided by Tom Stuart-Smith, a prize-winning exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show, and that James’s wife, Lucy, is passionate about the arboretum and its revival. We have been replanting with rare, exotic species, some provided by the Edinburgh Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, so it is very nice to have something rare from Wales too."