It can often feel like we live in a concrete jungle in Manchester, but relief comes in the form of our urban parks and gardens, such as Castlefield Viaduct sky park and Mayfield Park. We have some lovely greenery in Manchester that thrives in these environments, and now the Manchester poplar tree, found in Gorton, has been nominated for the Woodland Trust Tree of the Year 2023.
This year’s national contest celebrates urban trees in our neighbourhoods, from city parks and busy town centres to residential streets. Each one is a locally-loved ancient or veteran tree with a fascinating story, as well as supporting urban wildlife, cleaning our air, boosting wellbeing and much more.
A rare survivor in our area, the black poplar tree is a reminder of Manchester’s industrial heritage. As manufacturing in the city boomed, soot and air pollutants from coal-burning factories killed many of the city’s trees, but the black poplar was found to thrive despite the conditions.
It was easy enough to grow too and became a familiar sight in the North West in the 20th century – so much so the tree is also known as the Manchester poplar. But while the species tolerated pollution well, disease has sadly proved fatal for most. Over the last twenty years, many black poplars have succumbed to the symptoms and this specimen in Gorton’s Annie Lees Park is one of only a few thousand remaining.
The Woodland Trust approximates the Manchester poplar to have a girth of 4.07 metres, but its age is a complete enigma – we love a good mystery. Our poplar tree is up against some tough contenders all over the country, including the Greenwich Park sweet chestnut, the Lichfield Cathedral foxglove tree and the Grantham Oak, so get voting for the Manchester poplar!
The Woodland Trust website states: “A tree may be a village’s oldest inhabitant, a founding figure in a region’s identity or a natural monument integral to a nation’s story. It can also be a much-loved local landmark, a place to play and exercise, a gardener’s pride and joy or a space for communities to gather.”
The amazing Tree of the Year shortlist was handpicked by the Woodland Trust expert panel, along with one People’s Choice tree chosen from public nominations on social media. Now is your chance to vote for your favourite urban contender and help crown a Tree of the Year 2023 champion. The winner will represent the UK in the European Tree of the Year competition.
Voting is open here until Sunday 15 October and this year’s winner will be announced on Thursday 19 October.