Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: 200-year-old palm tree gets the chop today ahead of major renovation work

A two-hundred-year-old palm tree is due to be cut down in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) today ahead of a major restoration.

By Beth Murray
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 12:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 4:02 pm

The sabal palm arrived in Leith, Edinburgh, in the early 1800’s after being transported roughly 4,000 from Bermuda to Germany, before coming to the Capital.

In 1820 the tree was moved again from Leith to the Inverleith Botanic Garden site, where it has been growing ever since.

Standing at around 50 metres tall, the tree has had to be trimmed in recent years to prevent it breaking through the Glasshouse.

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Its vast size and weight means there is no way to safely remove it from the site, meaning it has to be felled.

It is the oldest plant in the Living Collection of the RBGE and is the last to be removed from the Victorian Palm Houses in preparation for major restoration works in the Edinburgh Biomes initiative.

Before it is chopped down, the palm tree – which is believed to be the oldest in Scotland – is being documented through botanical illustration, with some plant material being preserved for scientific Herbarium specimens.

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A two-hundred-year-old sabal palmis due to be cut down today in the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

In recent years several off-spring have been nurtured and when the Glasshouses eventually reopen, they will be replanted in the new displays.

It is understood that the sabal palm is nearing the end of its life anyway, with experts suggesting that it would only live for another 30 years.

However, this doesn’t ease the sadness for Scottish horticulturist, Simon Allan, who has been caring for the tree at the RBGE for a decade.

He told the BBC: "I have been looking after it for 10 years, looking up at it and wondering if it's alright, giving it a drink and feeding it. When a plant is looking good you know that it is happy.

The Victorian Temperate Palm House will shine at the heart of the new Edinburgh Biomes initiative.

"It gets watered every day, liquid feeds that are seaweed based regularly and topped up with fresh compost annually."

The renovation work will see the palm houses repainted and resurfaced after being stripped back to their core stone and iron work.

The window panes will also be re-glazed with more efficient thermal glass.

The Biomes Project, which should be complete by 2027, has been described as the most significant project in the garden's 350 year history.

The palm tree is more than 200-years-old and was transported to Edinburgh in the early 1800's.

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