Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Britain’s oldest tree changing gender?

007According to the Metro of 3 November 2015, Britain’s oldest tree, the Fortingall Yew (Taxus baccata), in Perthshire, ‘which is between 3,000 and 5,000 years old’ and is male has ‘started sprouting berries’ and is thus becoming female.

This tree has been described as ‘incontestably the most ancient specimen of vegetation in Europe’, which is possible.  Less probable is the idea that Pontius Pilate was born near, or suckled beneath, it while his father was a legionary in the Roman army.  In fact Pilate was already serving as Roman governor of Judaea from AD26 to 36, approximately 35 years before the Roman army reached Scotland.

Image:  fruiting yew, All Saints churchyard, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire; September 2015.

More extensive reports were published in the Mail on Sunday, 1 November 2015, and The Times and The Scotsman, 2 November 2015.

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