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Research explores lost blossom through UK place names

Street sign of Bloom Park Road in Fulham, London, with pink blossoming tree next to it
Bloom Park Road in Fulham, London | © Lillie Mason

New research has found that despite blossom declining in our landscapes since 1900, the number of place names linked with blossom has doubled. Blossom-related place names are also becoming increasingly generic – indicating a lost connection with individual tree species. Find out what this means for our blossom work across the UK.

As part of our 2024 celebration of blossom, we're sharing new research that's revealed the significance of historic blossom in influencing the street and place names that still exist today.

Although areas of traditional orchards have declined, place names associated with blossom have increased, showing its continued relevance to people across England and Wales. Detailed analysis found that the number of place names associated with blossom has doubled in the last century, going from 3 per cent (23,000 of the 700,000 place names examined in 1900) to 6 per cent (51,000 of the 912,000 place names examined) in 2023.

However, the research also found that that although blossom-related place names are increasing, they have become more generic and less regionally specific.

key facts

2 times

increase of place names associated with blossom since 1900

80 per cent

of cities have seen a decline in orchard numbers but a rise in blossom street names

52 per cent

of current place names with ‘orchard’ in them are within 500 metres of an orchard that's been lost since 1900

Place names can point to our values, beliefs and shared stories – they help us navigate cultural memory as much as they do the landscape itself.

A quote by Professor Matthew HeardNational Trust Head of Environmental Research & Data

The research process

Research was carried out by our own research team – led by our Head of Environmental Research, Professor Matthew Heard, and our Head of Historic Environment, Tom Dommett – and analysed modern and historic maps using artificial intelligence (AI). The results were then matched with the results of our orchards research from 2022 (which used AI to identify symbols relating to orchards on the same maps) and found a 50 per cent decline in orchards – and their blossoming trees – across England and Wales since 1900.

Street sign of Cherry Tree Road, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Cherry Tree Road, Woodbridge, Suffolk | © Jemma Finch

Findings by region or country

What comes next?

The lost blossom research has shown us that nature still plays a massive role in people's lives, and we want to make sure everyone can enjoy it, wherever they are.

Through our celebration of Blossom programme, which is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we're hoping to bring blossom back to as many cities and urban areas as possible through various projects, including the blossom gardens in London, Plymouth, Newcastle and Nottingham.

By 2030, we're aiming to incorporate four million blossoming trees into our ambitions to plant and establish 20 million trees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030.

Where we can, we want these plantings to reflect the cultural history of the area through the use of traditional varieties, helping the connection between people, blossom and place to endure, as well as benefiting nature.

Open pale pink blossom flowers each with five, small, cup-shaped petals, and dark pink-tipped stamens, hanging from thin dark branches

Explore blossom of the past and present

Discover more about how blossom-inspired street names have changed in your area.

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How we’re bringing blossom back 

Hedgerows and orchards provide food for insects, homes for wildlife and a spectacle of spring blossom for humans. However, they are disappearing from UK landscapes. Find out more about what we're doing to bring blossoming trees and hedgerows back.

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Helping communities blossom 

We're working with partners to to give communities more access to nature by planting blossom trees in towns and cities across the UK, so more people can enjoy the beauty and comfort of nature near where they live.

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Why does the National Trust do research? 

Learn how research helps us understand changes in the world around us, learn more about the places in the Trust cares for and find practical solutions to conservation problems.