A first time visitor to St Andrews Park will almost certainly be impressed with the number, size and variety of its trees. While it is a relatively small park, it is well endowed with trees thanks to its Victorian creators.
A recent count gives a figure of around 190 trees comprised of 40 or so species, most being now mature specimens dating from the original plantings when the park was opened in 1894.
Two species in particular help to give the park its unique character, the first being the Austrian Pines (Pinus nigra nigra). There are 33 of these, located for the most part around the periphery of the park, and probably placed there to help act as windbreaks, this being the most common reason for the use of this particular tree in parks and large gardens. These produce copious numbers of cones, the seeds of which form a significant item in the diet of the resident grey squirrels. One of these pines, still surviving, had its top lopped off when a Lancaster bomber crash landed in the park in the Second World War. More about this incident can be found on one of the information boards near the top end of the park. Two of the Austrian Pines have recently been felled because they represented a potential hazard. In line with a policy of trying to include more native species, these two trees have been replaced with Scots Pine.
The other tree that contributes significantly to the park’s identity is the Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata), of which there are 27 individuals. The species is native to England and Wales. The Limes are mainly concentrated along the major path traversing the park from north (the corner of Melita Road and Sommerville Road) to south (the corner of Maurice Road and Leopold Road). Their pollarded trunks give rise to sweeping arches of branches forming, in summer, a green canopied avenue that cuts diagonally across the park. The flowers of these Limes are particularly attractive to bees, and in late June, if standing under one of these trees, you can hear a distinct buzzing from numbers of insects visiting the flowers in search of nectar.
The 15 London Plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) though not so numerous, are by their sheer size, an immediately noticeable species and are also instrumental in helping create the overall character of the park. They are easily recognised by the mottled appearance of their trunks, a feature produced by the annual flaking off of plates of bark, that leaves behind a subtle patchwork in shades of green and brown. The seeds which form from the globular flower heads in autumn hang as clusters of dangling balls. Parties of goldfinches are particularly partial to these seeds and can be regularly seen feeding on them during the winter months.
The most prolifically-flowering trees are, arguably the six Bird Cherries (Prunus pardus WATERERI) which produce dense masses of long flower spikes, each covered in highly scented white flowers. On a calm, warm day in late April and early May, their attractive heady perfume pervades the park air.
Photo: Bird Cherry trees in flower in St Andrews park
There are three specimens of Maidenhair (Ginkgo biloba), a tree that was referred to as a living fossil by Charles Darwin as it is the only existing species of a group of primitive trees that originated, and was dominant in the Jurassic Era, 200 million years ago. Fossils of the Jurassic trees are virtually identical to the present day trees. Maidenhair trees are uncommon outside southern England and are most frequently found planted around London and the Bristol-Bath-Yeovil area.
About two years ago, a TBS member chose to have an uncommon species planted as a memorial tree. This Katsura (Cercidyphyllum japonicum) has particularly attractive foliage when its leaves open in spring and again when they develop their autumn colours. It is a native of China and Japan and in the right conditions, can grow into a very large specimen reaching up to 45 metres high. Like the Maidenhair, it is a very primitive tree, closely related to magnolias; the family to which it belongs may even, in evolutionary terms, predate the Gingko.
Lastly, a very unusual tree was planted in the park this year, a Bristol Whitebeam (Sorbus bristoliensis). It is a species endemic to Bristol, being found in the wild only in the Avon Gorge. There are about 300 individuals growing there. The St Andrews Park specimen is therefore a very rare tree and probably one of only an extremely small number to exist outside of the Gorge.
If you want to find out more about the St Andrews Park trees, there are lots of photos and more information about the trees described here and the park’s other tree species at: