A few weeks ago I used this photo of Acer pseudoplatanus Esk Sunset in a piece I did for the Bay of Plenty Times but couldn’t find out how and why it was named from the internet (it turned out to be one of those cases of knowing what it is you’re asking to get the right answer) so decided to do some further digging.
I started with David Parkes at Tamata, a specialist wholesale maple nursery in Waikato. He checked his reference books but came up empty and suggested a colleague in Christchurch who might know.
That seemed to be heading in the wrong direction, after all the Esk Valley is in Hawke’s Bay and I thought I remembered that this was indeed where the tree had been found and named (there’s also an Esk Flamingo).
So I called Steve Webb, city parks manager at Tauranga City Council. Why? He’s an arborist by training, hails from Hawke’s Bay and has strong horticultural links there (his great-grandfather started Cornwall Park Nursery, which closed in 2002, and his great-great grandfather worked for one of Hawke’s Bay’s first nurserymen.).
Steve didn’t know the origin of Esk Sunset but suggested trying Ben Currie at Leafland wholesale tree nursery in Palmerston North. Ben didn’t know offhand but reckoned he might know someone who would. “Leave it with me,” he said.
Amazingly, he phoned back about 20 minutes later (I thought it would take at least a day) with chapter and verse:
John Wills, who developed Trelinnoe Park near Napier, introduced two new maples (sycamores) to the nursery trade in New Zealand – Acer pseudoplatanus Esk Sunset and Acer pseudoplatanus Esk Flamingo. Both were chance seedlings he found in the 12ha garden, which is in the Esk Valley. Former Cambridge nurseryman Peter Cave, now retired to Raglan, helped get a supply of trees going.
So there we have it. A New Zealand developed tree that is also popular in North America where it’s known as Eskimo Sunset.