Living legacy of historic Foyle College tree protected through tree cloning

Ulster University’s use of tree cloning is allowing a 150-year-old tree located in the grounds of the old Foyle College in Derry to live on at two different local sites.

Professor Liam Maguire (UU), Kayla McDermott (Foyle College pupil), Professor Paul Bartholomew (UU), Patrick Allen (Principal, Foyle College), Kelvin McDermott (pupil), Dr Robert Murtland, William Lynn (teacher, Foyle College) and Nicole Sloane (teacher, Foyle College), with the newly plated tree at Foyle College.
Professor Liam Maguire (UU), Kayla McDermott (Foyle College pupil), Professor Paul Bartholomew (UU), Patrick Allen (Principal, Foyle College), Kelvin McDermott (pupil), Dr Robert Murtland, William Lynn (teacher, Foyle College) and Nicole Sloane (teacher, Foyle College), with the newly plated tree at Foyle College.

UU’s Magee campus and the new Foyle College site in the city’s Wateride will host the genetically identical cut-leaved Hornbeam trees.

The original ‘College Tree’ was one of six trees from Northern Ireland shortlisted for the Woodland Trust’s ‘Tree of the Year’ competition in 2017.

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However, it is now in its veteran stage and, due to natural decline, will soon be lost to the landscape.

Nicole Sloane (teacher, Foyle College), Amy Spain (Foyle College pupil), Professor Paul Bartholomew (UU) and Anas Mohammad (pupil) pictured at UU Magee.

Students from Foyle College with an interest in sustainability were invited to plant both trees on their new school site at Limavady Road and at the Magee campus.

Nicole Sloane, Geography and Geology teacher at Foyle College, said: “Students from our Environmental Club have maintained a close interest in this tree and we were pleased to know that the team at Ulster University were preserving its presence for future generations.

“We are delighted to host a genetically identical tree on our new campus and it’s been a great experience for our students to visit the University and learn about how it prioritises sustainability, especially during the week of the global climate conference COP26.”

Hugh Horner, from Ulster University’s Magee Grounds Team, added: “In the near future, this beautiful tree will be lost to the landscape due to natural decline from old age. A few months ago, we completed some tree surgery work with an aim to prolong the life of the tree and also used a technique called grafting to produce genetically identical trees from the main parent tree.

“We’re thrilled that the grafting worked and that we are sharing this experience with the students from Foyle College and that the tree’s legacy will live on across two educational sites in the city.”

Ulster University has developed a free sustainability course for secondary pupils across NI with an introduction to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals case studies that promote sustainability. The course also provides pupils with details about how UU is making the institution and campuses as sustainable as possible for students, staff and the environment.

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To find out more, visit https://www.ulster.ac.uk/sustainability