Aerial photo of a woodland in autumn colour
Photo credit: Joseph Cleal

Endangered trees at Westonbirt Arboretum

Sadly, today some of the world's trees are in danger of disappearing from the planet. Here at Westonbirt, we hold around 100 of these threatened species and our team works hard to preserve them for future generations.

The latest research suggests there are over 60,000 tree species on earth. 20,000 have been assessed for conservation, and of those nearly half are thought to be threatened with extinction.

Did you know that some trees species are as rare as the most endangered animals on the planet?  

close up magnolia

Well-known trees such as magnolias (left) are amongst the most threatened, as well as oaks, maple and ebonies also being at risk.

The top threats to trees are agriculture, logging (this is different to harvesting), and livestock farming, but climate change and extreme weather are emerging dangers.

That means there are twice the number of threatened tree species globally than threatened mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined.  

"A third of the world’s trees are at risk of extinction" - BCGI State of the World’s Trees report.

At Westonbirt we hold around 100 threatened species that are included on the IUCN Red Data list; a list assessing the extinction risk of plants, fungi and animals.

We all know that the black rhino is critically endangered, but did you know that a five-finger maple,is also critically endangered? This is one of the trees that explodes in colour, during Westonbirt’s autumn displays.

Having these threatened trees at Westonbirt, provides an opportunity for researchers to study how they grow, helping to inform decisions on how to care for them and ensure that future generations can enjoy them.

 

Amongst some of the rarest trees at Westonbirt, categorised as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red list, is the Wollemi Pinea spiky looking tree, now found only in the wild in a remote gorge of the Wollemi National Park, Australia.

One of the world's oldest and rarest plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs and with less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, the Wollemi pine is now the focus of extensive research to safeguard its survival.

The Wollemi is threatened in the wild by exotic diseases and weeds, wild fires and climate change.

Dark image of green spiky tree; Wollemi Pine
Photo credit: Brian Martin
sunny image of collection of Bristol whitebeam looking up from the ground
Photo credit: Brian Martin

Another more local tree which is categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red list, is the Bristol whitebeam.

First discovered in Leigh Woods in 1852, it grows wild in the Avon Gorge and nowhere else in the world.

There are seven kinds of whitebeam endemic to the Avon Gorge, and they are threatened by pests and diseases, competition from larger tree species and landslides - all of which occur in the Avon Gorge and could wipe out the entire species.

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A man walks through a beautiful landscape of reds and yellows. He looks up in admiration at the sight of vibrant trees.
Other active things to do

This autumn Westonbirt has created a special trail focusing on some of the endangered species we have in our collection and the work we and others in the botanic garden community are doing to support conservation efforts.

A green image with the words The Little Boof of Disappearing Trees - on sale now. Cartoon images of trees sit in lines by the text, some in bold colours of red, yellow and orange and others just outlines.

Did you know that as many as one in three of the world’s tree species are thought to be threatened with extinction?

Within the arboretum we currently care for over 100 threatened tree species and the latest edition of ‘The Little Book of Disappearing Trees’ introduces some of the endangered trees we look after.

Seniors Sitting on a Bench
Membership

Join the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum from £40 per year and visit Westonbirt throughout the seasons with up to 4 of your own children or grandchildren. You’ll be able to book your timeslot instantly and play a vital role in supporting the arboretum’s 10 Year Vision

Westonbirt group
Event
Sat & Sun
11am
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

Join our experienced and knowledgeable volunteers as they guide you through the Old Arboretum. Together you'll explore the best seasonal features of the Old Arboretum - and as the arboretum never stands still, no two walks are the same - perhaps you'll discover a hidden gem or your new favourite spot!