New species of tree discovered in UK

This is a one-in-a-lifetime headline. The trees of the British Isles are pretty well known, and the list of native British trees is not often revised. Now there is one more – and the new contender is a species new to science.

Catacol whitebeam tree, Sorbus pseudomeincichii (c)SNH

The Catacol whitebeam tree, Sorbus pseudomeincichii, is known from two specimens on the Isle of Arran. The tree is a cross between the native rowan and the cut-leaved whitebeam. The Isle of Arran is already home to two species of tree which do not occur anywhere else in the world, the Arran whitebeam (Sorbus arranensis) and the Arran cut-leaved whitebeam (Sorbus pseudofennica). Three trees of the new species were discovered in the 1990s but DNA tests had to be done before the species could be formally recognised and given a binomial name. Taxonomy is notoriously slow, and since the discovery one tree has died. Of the others, one is in poor condition while the remaining one is healthy. Like many new species discovered in such circumstances, the discovery owes as much to laboratory studies of the genetics of the trees than it does to fearless trekking into the wilds, but it’s nice to get another one for the list, nonetheless.