One of the world’s rarest and most endangered species of fir tree has “coned” for the first time in decades at a garden attraction in the Welsh Marches.

The Abies Bracteata (Santa Lucia or bristlecone fir), is growing with two others at Hergest Croft Gardens in Kington, a 70-acre estate and one of the UK’s most important horticultural sites. 

Seeds from the 18 metre high tree have been harvested and sent to the arboricultural centres across the UK and Europe for propagation and cultivation to support the survival of the species.

The last recorded time that an older specimen of this tree produced a cone was in the early 1960s.

The Abies Bracteata is a native of Monterey, California where its natural habitat is less than a 30 square kilometre area in the Santa Lucia Mountains and is regarded as an endangered species.

Whilst there are several other trees of this species growing in selected gardens in the UK, a “coning” is a very rare experience.

The exciting discovery was made just before Christmas when the huge tree was undergoing routine maintenance by Herefordshire based tree surgeons, Abortech.

“We are absolutely thrilled and very excited about this event,” said Austyn Hallworth, head of marketing and public relations for Hergest Croft Gardens.

“This discovery is so horticulturally important and crucial for its survival outside of North America that we have sent seeds to specific centres throughout the UK and Europe in an effort to propagate and cultivate for the future.

“The seeds were harvested by Abortech who scaled the tree using ropes. It was only when they reached the top that they realised the fir had coned.

“The original Abies Bracteata at Hergest Croft Gardens was planted in Park Wood in the 1930s and was scaled by Dick Banks in the 1960s when he entered the cones in a Royal Horticultural Society competition and won a gold medal.

“Sadly, this tree has since died but the three remaining examples are its children, as they were seedlings taken from it.”

Hergest Croft Gardens has been owned by five generations of the Banks family who have planted exotic trees and gardened there. The estate has more than 130 ‘Champion Trees’, 5,000 rare trees, plants and shrubs together with National Collections of Maples, Birches and Zelkovas.

A popular Welsh Marches tourist attraction, Hergest Croft Gardens is described as "one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the British Isles". It has six distinct areas - Hergest Croft, the Azalea Garden, the Maple Grove, the Kitchen Garden, the Park and Park Wood.

The estate also has the third tallest trees in Great Britain - a Douglas Fir standing at 200 feet and more than 160 years old.

The tree register is a charity which collates and records a database of notable trees throughout the UK and Ireland and has the largest database in the world. 

Hergest Croft Gardens is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent company representing more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, the Welsh Marches, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.