Visitors to Westonbirt may not yet be familiar with Taiwania cryptomerioides growing with us – in recent years there was a specimen growing close to the Forestry Commission offices but this succumbed following a combination of cold winters and dry springs, having been planted in thin soil in this area.
Now two young examples have been added to the collection. One of these is from wild sourced seed collected in 1993 by the Taiwan Forest Research Institute, which found its way to us via our colleagues at Bedgebury, whilst the other was a gift from Trellisick Garden in Cornwall.
|One of the new specimens in the collection|
Taiwania cryptomerioides is a monotypic conifer in the Cupressaceae, having previously been included in the now defunct Taxodiaceae. Whilst it bears some resemblance to a number of other genera in its family (its specific epithet denotes the likeness of the juvenile foliage to the mature foliage of Cryptomeria japonica), DNA studies have illustrated that it is closely related to none. Consequently it sits alone as sole member of the subfamily Taiwanioideae.
|Juvenile foliage of T. cryptomerioides|
The species is native to the mountains of central Taiwan, parts of China and neighbouring Myanmar and a recently discovered (and Critically Endangered) population in northern Vietnam. The Taiwanese trees have been thought of by some to be a distinct species (T. flousiana) but authorities state that close comparison of these trees with those of mainland China reveal no consistent differences in morphology. In its native range it attains heights of 60 metres and is aptly described by some as the ‘Asian redwood’. It has attained far more modest sizes in cultivation in Britain so far but is undoubtedly one to look out for!
Although having been introduced to Britain in 1920, the records show only one specimen having been planted at Westonbirt until the aforementioned deceased specimen in 1997. This first planting was in 1941 in the area now known as Savill Glade and although we have no date of it being removed, it definitely isn’t there now! What can be said about the recently lost specimen is that it attained a respectable size in the 15 years it was growing with us so we are hopeful that the new additions will make an impact (and last quite a bit longer than that!). They are located on moist soils in the Old Arboretum on Specimen Avenue – a ride dominated by conifers, so they should fit right in!