I wanted to sum up some of the takeaway messages from the course I attended with the Ancient Tree Forum – Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees: an advanced course for trainers.
A veteran tree is hard to define; generally speaking it is a tree with great value due to its life history – this often includes old-age characteristics, but the tree itself may not be ancient.
This is the most commonly accepted definition nowadays: a veteran tree is a tree which has markedly ancient characteristics, irrespective of chronological age. The term ancient is applied specifically to trees that are ancient in years (Lonsdale, 2014 – VETree website).
We have a fantastic collection of veteran and other ancient trees in the UK. Veteran trees are still scarce in the landscape however. Many of the species that live on veteran trees, such as dead wood specialist (saproxylic) beetles, are rare themselves and vulnerable to extinction – locally or completely.
Violet Click Beetle – “Found only in the heart of decayed ancient trees” (wikipedia)
When managing for veteran trees, we should consider carefully whether work on the tree itself is necessary: it might pose a risk to the life of the tree, and can also be expensive and dangerous work. This video “Common sense risk management of veteran trees” from the VETree project explores this idea a bit further.
We should think about the management of the land around veteran trees too. This could mean looking to the surrounding trees that might shade a veteran tree out now or in the future, or considering the rooting zone and either instating a root protection area or increasing the area that is protected.
If you are interested in veteran trees, there is a lot of information on the Ancient Tree Forum website or you could consider attending a course on Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees.