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Published June 3rd 2021
Fifth incarnation of tree dating back to year 1700
The fifth incarnation of an historic tree in Staffordshire is to be planted later this year to ensure it lives on for centuries to come. Johnson's Willow, as it is now called, is believed to date back to around 1700. The tree grows to the side of Stowe Pool in Lichfield and is famous for having been the favourite tree of writer and poet Dr Samuel Johnson when he lived in, and later revisited, Lichfield in the 18th century. For this reason it is now called Johnson's Willow, although it was originally known as Lichfield Willow. Lichfield District Council and the Johnson Society have been working together to make sure the significant tree is regrown as the current tree reaches the end of its life. A survey of all Lichfield District Council's trees has revealed Johnson's Willow needs to be felled due to extensive decay. It has already been regrown three times over the years using cuttings from each version of Johnson's Willow. The latest cuttings were taken in 2018.
Councillor Iain Eadie, Lichfield's Cabinet Member responsible for parks, said: "Although it's sad to see this remarkable tree come down, we're really pleased to be planting a new tree later in the year. Our community gardeners have been tending cuttings taken from the current tree, and will choose the strongest one to be planted in the autumn. This will become the fifth incarnation of Johnson's Willow so future generations will be able to enjoy this historic tree for years to come." Both Lichfield District Council and the Johnson Society will be involved in a ceremony to celebrate the replanting of Johnson's Willow. It will include the reading of a new poem about the tree following an open poetry competition run by the Johnson Society.
John Winterton, Heritage Liaison Officer for the Johnson Society, said: "The felling of the current Johnson's Willow will be a very sad event, but is unavoidable in the circumstances. The good news is that the future of the tree will be secured by the planting of the fifth willow only some three months later – the shortest interval in the tree's history." Johnson's Willow is expected to be felled in mid-August and a cutting will be planted in the same location in November when the site has been cleared. This will be protected with a tall metal cage until the young tree establishes itself.