200-year-old Bermudian palm tree in UK to be cut down
A palm tree transported from Bermuda more than 200 years ago to a Scottish botanical gardens is to face the axe.
The Bermuda palmetto tree, Sabal Bermudana, which arrived at the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh in the 1790s and is the oldest palm tree in Scotland, is too big to move while renovations are carried to the glasshouse it is housed in.
Managers at the Royal Botanical Gardens said the tree, an endangered species, was close to breaking through the 50 foot high glass roof.
Simon Allan, the RBGE palm expert, said: “The Sabal Bermudana will be dismantled from the top down – but it will have a legacy.
“There are dozens of its own progeny all around the bottom.
“We also have seedlings and, over the years, they have been put aside and grown on, so we have large plants as well.”
The tree – endemic to Bermuda – is understood to have been transported from the island to Germany, then on Edinburgh and planted off the city’s Leith Walk, the original home of the Botanical Gardens.
The RBGE collection, including the Sabal Bermudana, was moved to Inverleith, then on the outskirts of the city, in the 1820s.
The top of the Bermudian tree has been trimmed over the years to stop it smashing through the roof, but the gardens said the process had meant it “lost vigour and produced less fruit”.
Fiona Inches, the RBGE glasshouse manager, said: “Sabal Bermudana is the oldest known plant in our living collections and, as far as I know, the oldest palm in Scotland.
“Every plant is being removed for the renovations, but Sabal Bermudana is reaching the end of its life.
“We will keep as much as possible for research.”
Early Bermudians drilled holes in the trees to extract the sap, used make an alcoholic drink, which gave the species the nickname “bibby tree”.
The tree was in a pot plant when it was moved to Inverleith and a new tropical hothouse in 1834.
It was planted in the ground in 1910 and has flourished ever since.
The trees grow a half inch to two inches every year.
They can reach 80ft tall and weigh more than ten tons.