The dendrochronological potential of lime ( Tilia spp.) from trees at Hampton Court Palace, UK

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    The dendrochronological potential oflime (Tilia spp.) from trees at HamptonCourt Palace, UKAndy K. Moir a b & Suzanne A.G. Leroy ba Tree-Ring Services, Hungerford, Berkshire, UKb Institute for the Environment, Brunel University, Uxbridge,London, UKPublished online: 13 Apr 2013.

    To cite this article: Andy K. Moir & Suzanne A.G. Leroy (2013): The dendrochronologicalpotential of lime (Tilia spp.) from trees at Hampton Court Palace, UK, Arboricultural Journal: TheInternational Journal of Urban Forestry, DOI:10.1080/03071375.2013.783173

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  • The dendrochronological potential of lime (Tilia spp.) from treesat Hampton Court Palace, UK

    Andy K. Moira,b* and Suzanne A.G. Leroyb

    aTree-Ring Services, Hungerford, Berkshire, UK; bInstitute for the Environment, Brunel University,Uxbridge, London, UK

    Common lime (Tilia europaea L.) and large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos Scop.)are dendrochronologically and dendroclimatologically analysed for the first time. Limeis thought to be sensitive to climate change. Once a dominant species in Europe, it hasbeen in general decline from 3100 BC, but recently it has been found to be increasingthe northern limits of its range. Twenty-five trees from Hampton Court Palace (UK) arecross-matched to form a 138-year chronology spanning from AD 1866 to AD 2003.The relationships with climate were investigated using monthly instrumental records ofprecipitation and temperature from Kew between AD 1872 and AD 1997. The age ofthe lime trees was found to correlate well with girth (r 0.87). The annual resolutionof the chronology is robustly supported by regional cross-dating against established oakand yew chronologies. Summer precipitation (May, June and August) was shown to bea time-stable determinant of annual variation in radial growth. Problems of indistinctboundaries and missing rings, which become more prevalent in trees over 100 years ofage, may limit the dendrochronological potential of lime.

    Keywords: climate change; dendrochronology; dendroclimatology; lime trees; Tilia;Hampton Court


    In arboriculture and urban forestry, the determination of tree age is useful to identify the

    chronology of parks and gardens, to forecast future tree size and threats associated with

    increasing age and to identify individuals of particular conservation value. Dendroclima-

    tology, one of the sub-disciplines of dendrochronology, enables the identification of both

    tree age and relationships between ring width and climatic variables. In areas where a

    particular tree species is suitably responsive and long-lived and/or where past wood is

    recoverable, the discipline may enable climate records to be reconstructed at annual

    resolution, centuries before instrumental data are available. In the British Isles, the climatic

    relationships of few tree species other than oak (Kelly, Leuschner, Briffa, & Harris, 2002),

    Scots Pine (Briffa et al., 2001; Moir, Leroy, & Helama, 2011), yew (Moir, 1999) and elm

    (Brett, 1978) have been examined. All these genera have well-defined rings suitable for

    tree-ring analysis. Lime (Tilia spp.) has not been previously dendroclimatologically

    analysed. This is possibly because it is only rarely found in old buildings and it has a

    tendency to decay rapidly if damp. Furthermore, lime trees over 350400 years of age are

    typically hollow (Pigott, 1989).

    At the northern limits of its range in theLakeDistrict ofEngland, limehasbeenconsidered

    a relict species, due to its limited production of fertile seeds and pollen evidence of decline

    after 3100 year BC (Pigott &Huntley, 1980). The small-leaved lime (Tilia cordataMill.) and

    q 2013 Taylor & Francis and Aboricultural Association

    *Corresponding author. Email:

    Arboricultural Journal: The International Journal of Urban Forestry, 2013




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  • large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos Scop.) species are both native to the UK but are near the

    northern limits of their European ranges. Small-leaved lime is essentially a continental species

    known to require summer temperatures$208C at flowering for several consecutive days toproduce viable seed (Pigott & Huntley, 1981). It has had difficulty growing from seed in the

    UK under contemporary climatic conditions, but suitable conditions to permit fertilization

    may have been more prevalent during the medieval warm period (Pigott, 1989). Recently,

    Gray andGrist (2000) reported the natural regeneration of lime as far north as Perth, Scotland.

    Large-leaved lime is nationally a scarce tree (Newlands, 1999).Where both small- and large-

    leaved limes occur they can hybridise, resulting in common lime (Tilia europaeaL.),whichis also a widely planted ornamental tree.

    Limes (Tilia spp.) are one of the tallest broad-leaved trees inmost areas of Great Britain.

    They can achieve a height of 3540m, a diameter of 100300 cm and live up to 1000 years

    (Mayer, 1977). Multi-stemmed self-coppicing limes can live much longer (Pigott, 1993).

    Lime trees have played a major role as an architectural element in gardens in many

    European countries since the late seventeenth century. Owing to their aesthetic value, lime

    trees have become increasingly important in urban and open landscape in recent decades.

    The avenues of a double row of lime trees on both sides of the Long Water at Hampton

    Court Palace, UK, form the central feature of a great baroque patte doie layout (Figures 1

    and 2). This was originally commissioned by King Charles II soon after his restoration in

    AD1660. It is the finest surviving example of its kind inGreat Britain. The following history

    of the lime trees at Hampton Court is summarised from a report by Gough (2000). Adrian

    May, a royal gardener, purchased a consignment of 758 common limes fromHolland, which

    were planted in AD 1661. The average life expectancy of a European lime tree is 200250

    years, so the LongWater avenuewas in its prime at the beginning ofQueenVictorias reign.

    A policy of gapping up those trees in the avenue, which had perished, was largely

    unsuccessful due to competition with older trees. Many trees used in gaps were also a

    different species of lime, or planted in the wrong positions, which resulted in a gap-toothed

    canopy. The 1987 hurricane in Southern England affected the LongWater avenue badly. By

    2000, the original population of 544 trees had dwindled to 300, with only 7 original tree

    specimens remaining. The original trees were also a cause of problems as disease

    (particularly several types of bracket fungus) and old age had left them in a dangerous


    In 2003, the lime trees of the royal palace park in Hampton Court were felled (Figure 2)

    to allow the replanting and restoration of the avenues, which presented a useful opportunity

    for dendroclimatological and dendrochronological analysis. Indeed, on one hand, lime

    should be considered if it has the potential to become a new proxy for estimating global

    change; on the other hand, the dating of old lime trees will contribute to the corpus of

    knowledge on gardens of a historically significant place. The aims of this research were (1)

    to establish the ages of the trees sampled, (2) to establish relationships between the radial

    growth and meteorological climate records, (3) to identify whether lime might be a useful

    species in dendrochronology and (4) to interpret the ages of the sampled trees into the

    cultural landscape of Hampton Court.

    Materials and methods

    Sampling and chronology building

    Full trunk sections were sawn by operators at Hampton Court, typically from 20 to 30 cm

    above the ground level. For practical reasons, V-section samples were cut across the widest

    diameter to provide two radii for measurement (Figure 3). Standard dendrochronological

    2 A.K. Moir and S.A.G. Leroy




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