The authors have been searching for a few elusive botanical specimens to illustrate for The New Sylva. Yesterday we visited one of the best locations for any tree hunter: Britain’s national arboretum at Westonbirt, in Gloucestershire, which features some 2,500 different tree species.

We required samples from a number of conifer species that, within a single branch, had to feature foliage (needles) together with this season’s young cones and mature cones produced the previous year. The best specimens are found on mature trees and so are often far beyond reach. With help from staff a 5m telescopic pruning pole was used for some sampling, whilst for material higher up, the tree had to be climbed and the samples gently lowered to the ground.

We are very grateful to the Forestry Commission staff at Westonbirt. Dan Crowley helped us find suitable specimen trees. Richard Townsend and Tom Dewey undertook the pruning and tree climbing. Thanks also to Ben Oliver and Mark Ballard.

Find out more about Westonbirt Arboretum

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