Perhaps more than any other aspect of biodiversity, big trees hold a special place in our emotions. Sure, whales do too, but it’s hard to hug a whale. Trees on the other hand can be approachable behemoths, instilling awe into the observer and grandeur into a locality. So I was hugely saddened to discover today that the vast Black Pine (Pinus nigra) at Oxford Botanic Garden had been badly damaged a few months ago and has been felled. I’ve known this tree since 1987, and have introduced generations of undergraduates to it during our annual trip to the Garden. Each time I tell the story that it was one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s favourite trees and probably inspired his creation of the ents in Lord of the Rings.
The damage to the tree and its subsequent felling has been caught on camera, though I should warn you that for anyone who knew and loved the tree it’s an emotionally charged video. The tree has been propagated and its offspring will live on, but it will be another 200 years before one of them becomes quite so majestic.