A magnificent mystery maple has joined notable national species branching out in a bid to be crowned Tree of the Year.
Known as the student tree, the prize oriental specimen at University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus could this month join 10 hopefuls as finalists in Woodland Trust’s annual competition.
Campus manager, Rob Wilson, said he was delighted by the surprise nomination and determined to find out more about the Japanese maple, described as the ‘mysterious beauty everyone loves’.
He explained: “There must be so many memories and stories which we’d like to hear about and share. It’s stunning, evocative, inspirational, all the things you would want at a centre of learning.
“Students will have met under its vast canopy, crammed for exams, made dreams and plans for life, had aspirations and I’m pretty sure romance must have blossomed here too.
“If anyone can tell me anything at all about our precious Acer palmatum, sometimes known as red emperor maple, please get in touch. It’s always special, but in autumn when Tree of the Year is announced, it’s absolutely spectacular.
“There’s no wonder Japanese tourists in Ambleside spot it and come to take photographs.”
Mr Wilson said it was particularly pertinent to receive tree acclaim as the campus was home to the National School of Forestry.
He added: “We have an excellent reputation for producing award-winning professional graduates, occupying some of the most senior positions in the industry and are now hoping our student tree gets national recognition too.”
Native to Japan, Korea, China, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia, the ‘smooth’ maple could be anywhere between 60 and 100-years-old, according to senior lecturer in forestry conservation, Dr Andrew Weatherall.
He added: “It’s great that the Woodland Trust organises this competition. Ironically, the trust also awards an annual prize to the best student graduating from our woodland ecology and conservation programme.”
After Tree of the Year finalists are announced this month, shortlisted contenders will face a public vote in September.