Tree of the Year 2023: which iconic UK trees made the shortlist - and how do you vote in this year's contest?
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A gnarled 800-year-old oak in a quiet Surrey town will face off against one of the UK's rarest pear trees, and another which has watched Belfast grow from a tiny settlement to a city.
Voting has now opened for the Woodland Trust's 2023 Tree of the Year competition, with 13 contenders from across the UK earning a coveted spot on the shortlist. The Trust says this year's contest is celebrating "urban trees" - the long-standing pillars of our neighbourhoods, town centres, city parks, and suburban streets.
Twelve of the finalists were handpicked by an expert panel - while a bonus people's choice candidate was chosen from public nominations on social media - and each one has a more spectacular and storied history than the last.
Highlights from the shortlist include Exeter's "blitz tree" - an 80-year-old oak in the heart of the city, which the Trust's tree biography says had a remarkable history. In 1942, 20 bombers flew over Exeter in the dead of night and devastated the city in little more than an hour.
"Many buildings and much of the landscape was destroyed. Among those suffering extensive damage was Southernhay United Reformed Church on Dix’s Field in the city centre, but this oak tree, mere feet from the front door, somehow survived," it said. "The tree is admired by locals for its resilience and seen as a symbol of hope and strength."
The 800-year-old Crouch Oak in Addlestone, Surrey, has a much longer history, and has even survived an arson attempt. The Trust said it has been known by many names and claims to fame in its time - from the Queen Elizabeth I picnic tree, to Wycliff's Oak - after John Wycliff reportedly gave sermons under the tree in the 1300s.
Sheffield's Chelsea Road elm might not look like much, but it hides a rich inner life as one of the UK's most famous. "Fewer than 1,000 elms still stand after Dutch elm disease sadly wiped out over 60 million of them, but this tree is fortunately resistant to it," the Trust said.
"This alone makes it special, but it’s also home to the white-letter hairstreak butterfly, a species that has declined 93% since the 1970s."
Devon's Plymouth Pear is equally special, as one of the UK's rarest trees - and the only tree species protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. "Though it might once have been widespread in our woodlands, the species is now thought to live exclusively in wild hedgerows in Plymouth and Truro."
The Trust's bio describes it as festooned in "pure white flowers" in the springtime, where it stands surrounded by a protective barrier.
As well as voting for Tree of the Year, The Woodland Trust is also urging nature-loving Britons to sign up for its 'protect our living legends' campaign - to call for better protections for the UK's oldest trees.
"Many of our oldest and most valuable trees have no legal protection, including many of the ancient trees on our shortlist and in our communities," it said in a statement. "We're urging UK governments to change that."
Who are the finalists?
Here is the full shortlist of 13 trees, and where you can find them:
- Greenwich Park sweet chestnut (London)
- Holm oak blitz tree (Exeter, Devon)
- Cathedral foxglove tree (Lichfield, Staffordshire)
- Lakeside holm oak (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire)
- Crouch Oak (Addlestone, Surrey)
- Manchester poplar (Manchester)
- Grantham Oak (Grantham, Lincolnshire)
- Chelsea Road elm (Sheffield, South Yorkshire)
- Plymouth pear (Plymouth, Devon)
- Sweet chestnut (Wrexham)
- Highland Gateway walnut (Perth)
- Belvoir Oak (Belfast)
- People’s choice candidate: Library holm oak (Westbury, Wiltshire)
How can I vote?
You can cast your vote for the 2023 UK Tree of the Year by clicking the 'vote' link underneath your favourite, on the Woodland Trust's website here.
Voting is open until Sunday, 15 October - with the winner to be announced on 19 October. The victor will then go on to represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year competition.