New tree species found in gorge

A A A

Cheddar Gorge may be a well-known tourist spot but discoveries are still being made about the wildlife-rich site - including three new species of tree uncovered by a recent scientific survey.

The species were discovered when scientists conducted the first survey of whitebeam trees - so-called because of the pale underside of their leaves which are covered in fine white hairs - in the UK's largest gorge.



The Somerset site is difficult to survey because of its steep cliffs which are up to 120 metres (400ft) high.



The researchers from the Welsh National Herbarium used DNA techniques to analyse samples of the trees. They also used Satnav technology to record their exact locations.



In all, eight species of whitebeam were found in the gorge, which is one of a number of hotspots for the type of tree along with the Wye Valley, Craig-y-Cilau in the Brecon Beacons, Avon Gorge in Bristol and the north Devon-Somerset coast.



The trees, which belong to the Sorbus family, are related to apples and pears and have small fruits that look like miniature red apples. There are now more than 30 known species of the tree in the UK.



Mark Courtiour, the National Trust's Somerset countryside manager, said: "We always wondered what whitebeam rarities might be lurking in the gorge as it's such a stunning place for wildlife.



"This important survey work will help with our management of the site now we know what we have and where they can be found."



Dr Tim Rich, head of vascular plants at the Welsh National Herbarium, said: "These discoveries show that we're still learning about the natural world and finding new species of plants in the UK."



He added that Cheddar was a "very special place".



The three new species of whitebeam are:



* Cheddar whitebeam (Sorbus cheddarensis) - this tree has oval shaped leaves and can grow to at least 7m high (23ft). At least 19 trees were found in the survey.



* Twin cliffs whitebeam (Sorbus eminentoides) - these trees grow to around 9m (30ft), have roundish leaves and greyish brown bark. The survey recorded 15 of these tree.



* Gough's Rock whitebeam (Sorbus rupicoloides) - these trees grow up to 7m (23ft) and have long narrow leaves. Some 13 trees were found in the gorge.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence