Researchers say Britain’s oldest tree, estimated to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, may have undergone gender reassignment, part of which became female.
Fordingall U, in Perthshire, is thought to be older than Stonehenge, about 5,000 years old, and is considered a male tree because it produces pollen — unlike female yucks, which produce unique seed-bearing red berries.
However, botanists discovered three red berries on the Yuvi branch this year, indicating that at least part of the male tree was turning into a female.
“Use is usually male or female or easier to use in the fall and winter,” said Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, which saw the berries. “The males have small spherical shapes that release pollen clouds as they mature. The females have bright red berries from autumn to winter,” Coleman told The Telegraph.
“Therefore, I was very surprised to find a bunch of three ripe red berries at Fordingale Yu this October.
Although Coleman may appear to be “odd”, the use of – and other cones of different genders – sex change is not unheard of. “Usually this switch occurs in one part of the crown rather than the entire tree changing gender,” he said.
“It looks like a small branch on the outside of the crown at Fordingal Yue has become, and now it behaves like a woman,” she said. The three seeds will be collected and added to a program to preserve the genetic diversity of u trees across growing Europe, the Caucasus, West Asia and North Africa, The Independent reported.
The plan includes notable hedges such as a hedge u hedge and Fordingall yew grown from cuttings and seed collection from the wild instead of hedges in Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.