Abney Park's 13 hectares of woodland is home to around 200 'old' trees. The site's history as a woodland started in 1840 when it was planted as an exotic arboretum by the famous Victorian horticulturalists the Loddiges. Today there are still some specimens that remain from that planting, as well as others that were planted later in the 19th century.
Abney's big, old trees are vital for providing homes for bats, owls and other large animals. Even more importantly, many insects and fungi can only exist where there are old trees at just the right stage of decay. Abney has a remarkable diversity of insects and fungi, with many locally and even nationally rare species. Beautiful Orange Shield Cap and Silky Rosegill toadstools can be found growing on rotting poplar wood in late summer and autumn. Other rare fungi live inside the old trees. Hundreds of species of insect, most of which have yet to be identified, inhabit the dead and dying trees.
The Abney Park Veteran Tree Project was funded by the London Tree and Woodland Grant Scheme, with the aim of protecting and promoting Abney's veteran trees - trees that are of particular value to wildlife due to damage, decay or old age. In 2009, over 170 old trees at Abney were surveyed and 60 were found to have veteran characteristics.
Some of these veterans can be seen on our Veteran Tree Trail and you can download this pdf map and guide [400k]
On the trail you can find such interesting specimens as:
Pinus wallichiana, Bhutan pine
Native to the Himalayas and Hindu Kush, this evergreen tree has long gracefully drooping needles and eye-catching, very large, long and thin cones.
Catalpa speciosa, Indian bean tree
Behind the chapel, Abney's bean tree is rather sad looking, but is hanging on to life. The Indian bean tree has beautiful almost orchid-like flowers and bean-like seed pods.
Crataegus monogyna, Common hawthorn
There are probably four specimens of this beautiful native species that survive from the original 1840 planting. Commonly called the May.
Sorbus latifolia, Service tree of Fontainebleau
A type of whitebeam first recorded in the Fontainebleau forest outside Paris, this tree seems right at home at Abney and regenerates well. It has broad leaves, creamy flowers and little brown fruit.
Thanks to Russell Miller for text and image of Sorbus latifolia.