Scotland’s national tree – Catacol whitebeam?

The Scottish Government is considering whether Scotland should have its own national tree, and if so, what species should be chosen. The iconic Scots pine is an obvious choice for this accolade but there are other candidates.

We’ve invited advocates for six different species to give the case for their tree. In the fourth of a series of guest blogs, Graeme Walker, Scottish Natural Heritage’s Area officer for Strathclyde and Ayrshire, explains the story of one of the world’s rarest trees, the Catacol whitebeam.

“The Arran whitebeam is often described as Scotland’s unique tree – it has evolved and continues to survive in the mountains of Arran and nowhere else in the world. But as with most things in nature – its story is much more complicated than that!Image: WTPL

It is well known that whitebeams and rowan are prone to hybridise. Wherever two or more species grow together, there is a possibility that hybrids may be present.

Recent genetic analysis has revealed the events which gave rise to the Arran whitebeams. The story started with the crossing of the rowan and the un-common but widespread rock whitebeam. This pairing gave rise to the original Arran whitebeam.

Image: WTPLSubsequently the Arran whitebeam then crossed with the rowan which gave rise to the cut-leaved whitebeam. The next level of complexity was introduced when the cut-leaved whitebeam crossed with rowan producing the Catacol whitebeams. With only two individual Catacol whitebeam trees known in the wild this is one of the rarest species in the world.

So on Arran, we have not one, but three endemic Scottish trees, which are all part of a fascinating and uniquely Scottish tale of evolution and survival.”

How do you feel about whitebeam as Scotland’s national tree? You can have your say in the public consultation on Scotland’s national tree until 3rd December.

Our next guest post will be on Friday as usual next week.

Rory Syme, PR and Communications Officer Woodland Trust Scotland

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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