The Fortingall Yew, Britain's Oldest Tree, is Apparently Sick of Being Male

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is believed to be Britain’s oldest living tree, and appears to be undergoing a sex change. The ancient yew, which could be 3,000 years old is turning female. Just for context, Pontius Pilate is said to have played in its shadow as a child.

Scientists from the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh recently spotted three red berries on a branch of the tree. Until now, the Fortingall Yew has always produced pollen. The discovery has unsurprisingly attracted widespread attention, with scientists saying that part of the tree is behaving as a female.

"Males have small spherical structures that release clouds of pollen when they mature," said Dr Max Coleman, of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. "Females hold bright red berries from autumn into winter. It was, therefore, quite a surprise to me to find a group of three ripe red berries on the Fortingall Yew this October when the rest of the tree was clearly male.”

However, odd as it sounds, such a transformation is not actually that uncommon, so don't expect old Forty to appear on the front cover of Vanity Fair anytime soon.