Birkenhead Park was designed as a natural land to give back to the public. As such it is a haven for local wildlife and horticulture. There are many unusual trees within the Park that may surprise you!
Take a look below to see if you can spot any of these trees around the park!
Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)
Native to Southern Europe, this tree is one of several Holm Oaks in Birkenhead Park. Its foliage is evergreen, with individual leaves being dark and glossy on the upper side but with a fawn ‘felt’ coating underneath. Holm is an old English word for Holly and this refers to the juvenile leaves that are often spiny.
Willow-Leaved Pear (Pyrus salicifolia)
A native of Turkey, Iraq and Iran this pear tree has a low, tangled and slightly weeping dome of willow like leaves atop an often contorted and always rugged barked trunk. The new leaves are hairy and silvery-grey but the upper sides turn slowly dark green and shiny throughout the season. Clusters of white flowers appear in spring, alongside the new foliage. Small pear-shaped fruits appear in autumn and are really too sour to be considered edible.
Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata)
Another very special tree because it is the only one of its kind in this park. It is native to North America where in parts of its natural range it is deemed to be endangered. Leaves, which have bright green uppers with pale, downy undersides are late to emerge. Its flowers are inconspicuous but its fruits, which give the tree its name are 7cm long deformed ‘cucumber’ shapes in cerise pink and bright red.
Deodar (Cedrus deodara)
The fact that this tree is native to the Western Himalayas gives it its alternative name of Himalayan Cedar. Unlike its cousin the Cedar of Lebanon, which has a broad and spreading appearance, the Deodar has a tall, straight and conical habit. Its evergreen needles are long and rather soft and close inspection reveals fine grey lines against the vivid green background.
Black Mulberry (Morus nigra)
This tree was probably propagated by planting a large log called a ‘truncheon’. When this method is used the ‘truncheon’ rapidly produces a mass of new shoots, but the log rots back to give young trees an ancient appearance with a twisted trunk and crooked branches supporting a dense, twiggy dome. Heart- shaped leaves appear late on the Black Mulberry, but when they emerge they are dark and glossy on top and hairy below. The fruit, which is ripe in late summer, is delicious but liable to cover the eater’s hands and clothes in blood-red stains.
Common Lime (Tilia x europaea)
These Common Limes are a hybrid of two native Limes, the
Broad-Leaved and Small-Leaved Lime. They are rare in the wild but have been planted commonly across British parks and gardens since the 17th Century. In this sense they are not especially unusual.
However, these particular Limes are worth a mention because of their historical significance to the park. This avenue of Limes was planted by local school children in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II.
English Oak (Quercus robur)
Another common tree, the English Oak is probably the tree most people imagine when they think of British woodlands. Paxton had many English Oaks planted throughout the park, alongside Beech (Common and Purple), Sycamore and the fast growing Turkey Oak, to provide a structured frame for the rest of his plantings and designs. This particular English Oak is very special to Birkenhead Park as it is believed to be the oldest tree in the park. Dating from the 1760s this magnificent tree was probably part of a field boundary in the days before the park was created when the surrounding land was all pasture. As the English Oak can live for up to 1000 years it is to be hoped that this magnificent tree will grace the park for many centuries to come.
Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’)
The Purple Cherry Plum is a native from the Balkans to Iran but has been widely planted throughout Britain and in many areas has become naturalised. It is smothered in white to very pale pink flowers in spring and cloaked in striking purple foliage throughout summer. The leaves are downy on the underside of the veins. It produces small but edible, red plums that ripen in late summer.
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
A large evergreen shrub or small tree, the Strawberry Tree is native to Southern Europe and the South of Ireland. Its grey-red trunk and twisted limbs support a dense, rounded canopy of vivid green leaves. The leaves themselves are small and usually edged with fine ‘teeth’. The flowers, sprays of ivory coloured bells, appear alongside last year’s ripe fruit. The fruit starts yellow, and turns scarlet as it ripens and appears strawberry-like. Fruit of the Strawberry Tree is edible. However, as its Latin name, unedo (which means ‘I ate only one’), suggests; the ‘strawberries’ of the Strawberry Tree are not very tasty. Nevertheless, the Portuguese harvest the fruit to make the alcoholic drink Medronho.
London Plane (Platanus x hybrida)
Tall and fast growing, handsome, deciduous trees with maple-like leaves; the London Plane is remarkably tolerant to high levels of pollution and so has historically been planted widely along busy roads or, like here, on the edge of urban parks. The bark of mature London Planes is always grey and brown in colour with large, obvious patches where the outer bark has flaked. The tree’s tiny flowers are borne on small, drooping globes in late spring.
Hybrid Strawberry Tree (Arbutus x andrachnoides)
Another rarity in Britain, the Hybrid Strawberry Tree is a natural cross between the Strawberry Tree and the Grecian Strawberry Tree. It is a native of Cyprus and Greece. In appearance the Hybrid Strawberry Tree is similar to the Strawberry Tree; an evergreen, irregular dome sat on twisted branches. However it is easy to distinguish between the two by looking at the bark. Unlike the dull reddish grey bark of the Strawberry Tree, the Hybrid Strawberry Tree’s bark is in beautiful and vibrant ruby red tones, peeling away to reveal subtle pinks and creams. The bark is also smooth and soft to the touch with a slightly oily feel if you stroke it with your palm.