William Lucombe (before 1720 – after 1785) was a nurseryman, who gave his name to the Lucombe Oak (Quercus × hispanica 'Lucombeana'). Lucombe began his horticultural career as Head Gardener in the service of merchant Thomas Ball at Mamhead Park circa 1720. It was while working at Mamhead that he founded his nursery, marketing many of the plants collected by Ball during the latter's commercial travels abroad, most famously the Holm Oak.
Lucombe bred his eponymous oak at his nursery in St Thomas, Exeter (now Pinces Gardens), which he founded in 1720, the first commercial nursery in south-west England. This hybrid oak was first spotted in 1762 when Lucombe noticed that one of the saplings produced from a Turkey Oak acorn he had planted kept its leaves in winter. He later observed that these features occurred where both parents (Turkey Oak and Cork Oak) grew. True Lucombe Oaks are clones of the original tree, but Lucombe Oak is also often used to refer to any hybrid between Turkey Oaks and Cork Oaks.
One of the early Lucombe Oaks went to Kew, and Lucombe Oaks along with their descendents, which include back crosses with the naturalised Turkey Oak, are common in the landscape of East Devon, as well as parks and gardens. The TROBI Champion is at Phear Park, Exmouth, measuring 26 m in height, with a trunk diameter of 261 cm in 2008.
Lucombe felled the original hybrid in 1785, keeping timber from it from which his coffin was to be made when he died. He stored the boards under his bed; however, he lived, for the age, an exceptionally long life, dying at the age of 102 years, by which time the planks had decayed in the Devon damp. On his death timber from one of his early graft propagations was used to make his coffin.
- Stroud, D. (1950). Capability Brown. Republished 1984. Faber & Faber, London. ISBN 978-0571134052
- Harvey, J. (1975). Early Nurserymen. Phillimore, Chichester, UK.
- Johnson, O. (2011). Champion Trees, of Britain & Ireland. p.142. Kew Publishing, London.
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