Birmingham Tree Nursery

by | Oct 28, 2023 | 0 comments

Our partner scientists in MEMBRA (Understanding Memory of UK Treescapes for Better Resilience and Adaptation) are growing and learning about seeds from ‘stressed’ trees in their laboratories in Birmingham University as part of their research. In parallel with this we initiated a collaboration with communities in the city to explore themes in the research around memory, ancestry and tree seed nurturing.

We were fortunate to find two local collaborators – Simbi Florain from Crick Lane Gardens and Jaime Jackson and Sally Payen from Salt Road who were keen to get involved.

As a result of their connection with the project, we were thrilled to meet over 35 participants on the last weekend in October 2023 to find out more about each other, the science behind MEMBRA, the ecology of forests and trees and to share stories of courage and ancestors.

We began by travelling to a strange forest about an hour’s drive from the city.  BIFOR FACE (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research) Free Air Carbon Dioxide enrichment facility claims to be the ecological equivalent of the Hadron Collider.  A strange space which is both utterly recognisable as a classic deciduous woodland but also confusing because of the metal towers and networks of pipes running through it.  These structures are delivering high levels of Carbon Dioxide to the trees to mimic future environmental conditions predicted for 2050, and MEMBRA are testing the seedlings grown from the mature trees for resilience to increased doses of this key greenhouse gas. 

Entering the woods there were some powerful and interesting questions from the participants about the ethics and reasons for the study. 

Had MEMBRA asked the trees for permission to test on them? 

Why did the scientists use the words ‘enriched atmosphere’ when it was something that could be doing the trees harm? 

What were the scientists hoping to gain by doing these experiments? 

A short tour of the forest was followed by a session gathering some tree seeds before we went for lunch and reflected on the visit.  

The following day we gathered at Winterbourne Gardens to plant the acorns and hazels that had been collected, then in the afternoon we moved to Crick Lane Gardens to do the same.  We were joined by Rachel Mailes and Rosa Sanchez (science researchers on the MEMBRA project) who shared their knowledge of seeds, tree and forest ecologies.  We displayed the many seeds gathered and set out the tool belts, notebooks and rubber stamps we’d made for this first part of the Tree Nursery programme. 

With twenty folk from the Dolphin Women’s Centre in the morning and half of the participants being children, we had a wild, fascinating time connecting with trees in the gardens, talking about what we would stand up for, and did a great deal of stamping onto notebooks!

In the afternoon, Crick Lane gave us a beautifully warm welcome to their gardens and over hot soup there was a continued conversation around the value and ethics of the science. Stories were recounted, seeds planted and notebooks and tool pouches stamped and decorated before the light started to fade. 

We are looking forward to the next chapter in this Birmingham Tree Nursery story!