One of the many closes perpendicular to Edinburgh’s historied Royal Mile is Roxburgh Court. On this small square, you can find a plaque that lists the scientific names of four trees along with years. These plaques commemorate a bit of Old Town history.
One of the most notable features of Edinburgh’s Old Town is the density of tightly packed tenements separated by narrow alleys called “closes.” As the city has grown and changed, some of these closes have been lost or changed. Roxburgh’s Close was likely named for John Roxburgh, a chef who lived here in the 17th century. More than 300 years later, the buildings that separated it from another nearby alley were demolished, resulting in the creation of Roxburgh Court.
The tree species listed on the plaques include Acer Saccharinum, a silver maple from North America (1725); Betula dalecarlica, a Swedish birch tree (1767); Betula utilis, a Himalayan birch tree from Nepal (1842), and Sorbus commixta, a Japanese rowan tree (1906). Specimens of these four trees used to be located on this court at those points in history. One of the existing trees has a different metal frame around its base, also divided in four parts. Another frame in the court might have been around a now-gone tree.