Westonbirt Trip to Japan

Three members of the tree team at Westonbirt Arboretum undertook a 3-week trip to Japan in autumn 2008. Penny Jones, Mark Ballard and Simon Toomer travelled to a number of forests in Hokkaido, and eastern and central Honshu in search of a range of target species. Seed of more than 90 new accessions were collected. Most important among these were various species of maple, including Acer distylum and A. shirasawanum. These and other plants collected will contribute to Westonbirt’s developing maple collection and application for National Collection status. Seed will be germinated at Westonbirt and plants will be grown on there (spare plants may be offered to other collections via our surplus list).

Japanese hosts for the trip included the universities of Hokkaido and Shizuoka, both of whom gave permission to collect from their research forests. The people we worked with included a student from Shizuoka University who was keen to develop her knowledge of maples and, in particular, botanical names.

Among the highlights of the trip was a visit to Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest national park on Hokkaido. The forested slopes of Mount Asahi provide an amazing example of vegetation under the combined influences of volcanic activity, land-slides and deep winter snow. It seemed odd to see so many familiar garden plants growing in this rugged and hostile environment. Very different from the fastidiously maintained temple gardens of Kyoto, where we spent 2 days later in the trip.

The team relied on public transport to travel between collection sites and soon became familiar with the speedy (and not so speedy!) Japanese rail system.