Have you tried? Spotting redwoods in Scotland
Emily Bryson has become a self-confessed Scottish redwoods addict. The trees have are also called sequoia. Her adventures involve running, cycling and walking to known groves of the redwoods. Emily also has a plan to swim to Inchmaholme Priory in the summer so she can say she has swam to see a redwood, too.
Emily, who has written a couple of posts for the Scottish Redwood Trust on the topic, tells us why she is so keen on Scottish redwoods – and reveals how you can enjoy redwood spotting as well.
How did you get into spotting redwoods?
A friend from work brought redwood cones into the office one day. He enthused about how he’d managed to propagate them and he took me on a Google maps tour of Perthshire, showing me ridiculously tall trees towering over their trifling neighbours. I hadn’t realised that there were so many sequoias in Scotland and I was keen to see one for myself.
My first encounters were on a private estate near Logierait in Perthshire, while I was away for Hogmanay with friends. We were out for a walk when we stumbled upon a row of impressive trees. They were each so big that they took five of us to hug just one.
After the holidays, I returned to the office to discover we’d found unlisted treasure. The Scottish Redwood Trust didn’t have it on record. I was hooked and spent my next bike rides and runs with my eyes focussed on the skyline for tall trees.
What is a Scottish Redwood?
Redwoods are coniferous trees with a reddish bark. There are three types of redwood: Dawns, coasts and giants. Coast and giant redwoods in Scotland are descended from their mature and substantial American cousins. They were first planted in Scotland around 170 years ago. Dawn redwoods were first discovered in China in 1941 and brought to the UK in 1949.
Why are the Redwoods important?
Redwoods are classified as endangered in their native environment. There are many reasons for this, including lack of rain due to climate change and humans prioritising development over nature.
Growing redwoods in Scotland and other parts of the world means that the species of tree is protected; Scottish trees can be used to reseed native populations, if necessary. Redwoods can also capture 10 times more carbon dioxide than other trees, which is of great benefit to the environment.
In Scotland, there are currently three groves of trees that are of concern. A grove at Gillies Hill (near Stirling) is under threat due to quarrying; a row at Inchture (Perthshire) is a concern due to annual flooding; and an iconic row at Benmore gardens (Argyll) is looking for donations to mitigate issues caused by soil compaction and increased rainfall.
How can I spot a redwood?
When I first started spotting redwoods, I noticed the giants simply due to their size. Older ones are especially huge but it is harder to spot young trees. Here is a quick guide:
- Giant redwoods are the biggest. They have a soft, spongy red bark and their foliage is round and droops down. Their cones are more spherical than most.
- Coast redwoods are the tallest. They also have soft, fluffy red bark but their foliage is flat and needle-like. Their cones are smaller than giant redwoods.
- Dawn redwoods are unique because they lose their foliage in winter. Their bark is not as soft but it is distinctive due to having concave “armpits” under the branches.
- For a full guide and images, see redwoodworld.co.uk.
Where will I find a Scottish Redwood?
Scottish Redwoods tend to be located in public parks, botanic gardens, castle grounds and private country estates. Think of locations such as Scone Palace, Stirling University, Camperdown Park, Dunkeld House Hotel, Kelburn Country Park, Benmore Gardens, Inverewe Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Search online before you go, or just keep an eye out when you’re out and about walking, running or cycling.
It’s also possible to find them in unassuming places like small local parks such as Hayburn Park in Hyndland, Glasgow. The Redwood World website and the Scottish Redwood Trust Facebook Group is a good place to start.
Read about one of Emily’s running routes to find redwoods in Glasgow.
Is there a record of Scottish Redwoods?
The Scottish Redwood Trust has a catalogue of trees. There are around 2700 giant redwoods, 600 coast redwoods and 200 dawns in the catalogue. These numbers are constantly changing as spotters add new trees to the list. Could you be the finder of an unlisted tree? Join the Facebook group for more information.