TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the most famous names in tree care after he passed away last month. 

Dr David Lonsdale was a key figure at Forest Research for nearly three decades, as well as a leading author, consultant and educator.

Along with writing numerous scientific papers on tree disorders, diseases, conservation, and safety issues, he is perhaps best known for authoring the textbook ‘Principles of Tree Hazard Assessment and Management’, which has become the cornerstone reference for the subject. 

Tony Kirkham MBE, the former head of arboretum, gardens & horticulture services, Royal Botanic Gardens, said: "I first met David when I was a student setting out in the arboricultural world and was fascinated by his knowledge of trees, his research, and the network of people that he knew worldwide.

"The day after the Great storm on the 16th of October 1987 when I was a supervisor in the Arboretum at Kew, I got a call from him asking if he could come to Kew with his students to collect samples of old pruning wounds on felled trees. 

"He said that he would only need a day. I agreed and he arrived. On finding so many tree species of the 700 trees that we lost that night and that he had no material of, he ended up staying for over a week. His excitement on having access to this material for the work that he was doing on pruning techniques was very evident in his smiles and communications.

"He was also very supportive, professionally, to me during a low time in my arboricultural career when I needed it, and I will always remember this.

"The arboricultural world and especially me will miss David’s extensive knowledge, passion, humour, and friendliness." 

Elsewhere, David edited other textbooks, including translating from German to English ‘The Body Language of Trees’ by Claus Mattheck and Helge Breloer. His body of work saw him given the rare honour of the International Society of Arboriculture's Award of Distinction. 

Professor James Pendlebury, chief executive of Forest Research, said: "It is with great sadness to hear that Dr David Lonsdale has passed away. David worked with the Forestry Commission’s Pathology team for 26 years. His early research was on beech bark disease and then he turned his focus on to tree decay.

Forestry Journal: David was a key figure within tree care David was a key figure within tree care (Image: Rob McBride)

"Over time, David’s expertise in this area became internationally recognised and included the assessment of tree hazards on behalf of public and private landowners, and he continued in this work up to the time of his death. 

"David was hugely knowledgeable about ancient and veteran trees as well as a longtime contributor and supporter of the Ancient Tree Forum.  His name has even been immortalised in science through the creation of the genus Lonsdalea, which is one of the agents involved in oak decline.

"David will be much missed."

A statement from the Arboricultural Association added: "He made an exceptional contribution to our understanding of trees and their care. We owe David a huge debt of gratitude."