Near St Albans Abbey stands a magnificent Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora japonica.) The tree is over 26 metres high and has a girth of 5.2 metres. Even though the tree is estimated to be over 250 years old, it is still a healthy specimen and has even flowered in the last three years.
The tree is said to be about 250 years old but this is anecdotal only; project volunteer Brian Lee has found no hard evidence to verify its age. The oldest record of the tree is this photo dated 1884. The photo shows Mr Hales the gardener and his wife and C.S. and J.P. Nisbett sitting down. The Pagoda tree however is though to have been planted in 1753.
Evidence suggests the species was introduced to Britain from France, where it had been introduced in 1747 from China. The Pagoda tree is native to China not Japan as its Latin name suggests.
James Gordon was a noted nurseryman of the 1700s who introduced and cultivated with success many exotic plants. He is credited with introducing the Pagoda tree to Britain in 1753, the same year the tree in Abbey grounds is thought to have been planted!
It is conceivable that the pagoda tree near the Abbey is one of the surviving James Gordon specimens. Brian continues to hunt for more information about the Pagoda tree and hopes to find a link between James Gordon and the Abbey tree.
This tree is in a private area