This portrait of the well-respected poet and botanist Libby Houston was carved into a large oak bench that I designed and made. which is now sited on the Clifton Downs in Bristol.
The leaves that she is holding are from a Houston’s Whitebeam, a sub-species of Whitebeam tree (Sorbus spp.) which is only known from a single specimen growing in the Avon Gorge near Bristol. Libby discovered the tree and it has been named after her.
When Libby visited, she brought the leaves with her for me to copy in carvings on the bench and also very kindly explained what made them distinct from similar trees. Whitebeams are deciduous, meaning that the leaves are shed by the tree every autumn (fall). Therefore obtaining these leaves hadn’t damaged the tree at all.
After she had left I realised that, since there is only one specimen of this tree known to exist, they must be leaves from the world’s rarest tree.