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THE BLACK POPLARS OF EXNING G . M . S. EASY

The three ancient trees growing close to the County boundary near Landwade were until recently thought to be the only examples of Black Poplar, Populus nigra L. var. betulifolia (Pursh) Torr, remaining in this region of Suffolk. In fact there was a belt of trees lying in the nearby Valley of the stream that bisects the parish of Exning. Those at Landwade were introduced over 200 years ago, being shown as significant trees on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1836, while the remainder seem to have been planted in the first half of the nineteenth Century or early this Century. They have either escaped detection due to their uncharacteristic appearance or by being somewhat hidden in mixed woodland. In the competitive Situation of these wooded belts the poplars often have a long-trunked shape in contrast to the wide topped, Standard Black Poplars which are so familiar. Nevertheless, several giants not only matched the girth of the massive 22 ft Landwade specimen but most of these impressively bossed, rugged woodland trees were over 100 ft tall and one colossal tree seems to have exceeded 120 ft. The total Black Poplar population in Exning stood at 15 trees in 1980; now only five trees remain. Two of the ancient Landwade trees have been blown down and no less than eight of the woodland belt trees have been felled. Sadly, the 120 ft giant has been included in this tally. While it seems an act of extreme vandalism to destroy such an impressive specimen, indeed few of those downed showed any real signs of central core rotting, these trees towered over studlands. It therefore seems likely that the stud owners were worried of possible damage to their racehorse stock from these huge trees. It alarms me somewhat that my own actions in asking to be allowed access to examine the trees hastened their destruction by bringing their presence to the attention of the stud managers. It could easily have been a case where the fears of preservation laws ensuing resulted in their annihilation. Work on felling must have started only a matter of weeks after my visit, a stränge coincidence for trees whose life span of 150 years plus had passed without incident. The remaining Exning trees involve one young example, one moderately well formed yet unbossed Standard tree and three large specimens. Only one woodland tree now stands, its massive erect trunk contrasting with the lone Landwade poplar with its wide spread of almost 100 ft little more than a meadow distant. The drawings show the trees numbered from south to north, and an asterisk marks the poplars that remain. The trees are shown as near to the same scale as has proven possible from the sketched and photographic evidence that remains; one tree has been omitted having fallen before data were collected. G. M. S. Easy, 11, Landbeach Road,Milton, Cambridgeshire, CB4 4DA. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 21


Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 21

The Black Poplars of Exning  

Easy, G. M. S.

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