Birthplace of leylandii, Leighton
Nearly all of the world’s Leyland cypresses (often known as “leylandii”) are descendants of a tree which accidentally grew here, at the Leighton Estate. John Naylor, who acquired the estate in 1847, collected trees from around the world. Cross-pollination between Monterey and Nootka cypresses produced a distinctive tree which was first described in 1888. These species are native to different regions of the North America but cross-pollinated because of their artificial proximity at the Leighton Estate.
The original Leyland cypress was felled by a storm in 1954. Foresters took branches from it for tests, and commercial nurseries soon spotted its potential as a fast-growing hedging plant. Today it has a tarnished reputation because of disputes between neighbours over unchecked leylandii blocking light and views.
The species took the Naylor family’s earlier surname. John Naylor was given Leighton Hall as a wedding gift by his uncle Christopher Leyland, who had bought Leighton Hall in 1845 with some of the wealth he had amassed from banking.
As it passes the Leighton Estate, the Offa’s Dyke Path passes a grove of monkey puzzle trees, an unusual sight in Britain. This is another legacy of the Naylor family’s interest in exotic trees. This type of tree grows naturally in South America.