Bedgebury National Pinetum has the most complete collection of conifers in the world. The aim to have 7 specimens of each conifer from different wild collected sources and having a variety of ages - thus providing a continuing genetic resource.
The Conifer Conservation Project is an exciting initiative to grow large numbers of critically endangered conifer.
The Forestry Commission manage the National Pinetum for the nation. They aim to have a visually pleasing mix of conifers and broadleaved specimens contained in 350 acres of rolling Wealden countryside. The collection was started in the 1840's by the Beresford Hope family and was greatly improved following its acquisition by the Forestry Commission in 1925 when it became jointly managed with Kew Gardens. The planting scheme of William Dallimore, the first curator, largely kept all trees from the same genera together, whilst this was useful for comparing species it lead to an uninteresting landscape. The 1987 storm destroyed up to a third of the trees, this sad event provided an opportunity to replant with mixture of trees to give a varied landscape.
The curator's plan is to provide a mix of 70% conifers to 30% broadleaves, and to leave 40% of the site open to provide vistas and allow the trees to be fully appreciated. The curator's reports can be found on the Forestry Commision's website.
The Pinetum uses a standard tree label layout, the Friends are renewing all the labels, but this is a slow process.
Recent climate change has increased the scientific importance of the collection and our team are gaining an international reputation for their extensive knowledge of conifers and their propagation. The National Pinetum has recently signed memoranda of understanding with both RBG Kew and RBG Edinburgh to simplify the transfer of specimens and information.
This project, the brain child of our curator Chris Reynolds and propagator Dan Luscombe is to utilise the redundant forest plots to grow large numbers - up to 500 - of endangered conifers to provide an ex situ genetic resource. The first plots were planted with Prumnopitys andina - the Chilean plum yew - by Boy Scouts celebrating their centenary in 2007. Subsequent plantings will include samples from Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia. Click here for a plan of the plots.