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Church of St Mary and St Gabriel in the Totnes Mission Community
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The Tai Haku Tree

We have in our Churchyard a variety of trees. The Yew is the most famous of them. The small Yew that was planted to commemorate the Millennium did not survive and was replaced with a sapling from our own tree by the late Mr Ted Cole. There are also the Lawsonia Cypress by the lych-gate and Oak, Ash and Irish Yew hedge, Hollies and several Flowering Cherries.

Many of the exotic trees in Great Britain were brought here as seeds by men exploring the world, men like John Tradescant, Earnest Wilson, Archibald Menzies, and the two Cornish brothers William and Thomas Lobb who worked for the Veitch nurseries near Exeter. The hedging plant Escallonia so popular in the west country was found in Chile by the Lobb brothers.

The flowering tree at the west corner of the lower churchyard is a Tai Haku Cherry. Its branches are longer than the trunk is tall. The flower is pure white and is about one inch across and grows in a cluster four inches wide creating a lovely white mantle over the whole tree in late April and early May, the leaves then turn a coppery bronze colour.

The Tai Haku came from Japan, but two hundred years ago the tree became extinct there and then ninety years ago, the owner of a cherry tree in Sussex had it identified as a Tai Haku and a Captain Ingram took several cuttings from it and propagated them. Subsequently all Tai Haku trees grown in Great Britain came from this source. Our tree is among the largest in this country. There are several Prunus Tai Haku trees by the White Hart Bar on the Dartington estate.

John Cox, April 2018

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