One of Britain’s oldest trees has changed sex — after 3,000 years

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ONE of Britain’s oldest trees has changed sex — after 3,000 years.

The ancient 55ft yew has switched from male to female, with some experts blaming it on stress.

SWNS:South West News Service

For three millennia, the tree had been producing small cones, a sign of being a male[/caption]

SWNS:South West News Service

But one of its many visitors recently noticed it had begun growing bright red berries — indicating it is now female[/caption]

For three millennia, the tree had been producing small cones, a sign of being a male.

But one of its many visitors recently noticed it had begun growing bright red berries — indicating it is now female.

Woodland Trust spokeswoman Ruby Harrison said the switch “could be a response to stress or a change in environment”.

She said there had been similar occurrences around Europe.

‘THEY CHANGE SEX’

But she added: “It’s lovely to see it on our ancient yews, though, because it reminds us that they are survivors. Even though they’re old, they’re absolutely still living, sensing and responding, and able to reproduce.”

The tree is one of several historic yews around St Meugan’s church near Brecon, mid-Wales.

Churchwarden Simon Baldwin, 66, said: “There are a lot of people who are interested and come and see the trees, which are quite magnificent.

“I’m aware of the phenomenon, that they change sex.”

Europe’s oldest yew tree — a 5,000-year-old male in Perthshire, Scotland — began producing berries in 2015.

SWNS:South West News Service

The yews thriving among the gravestones at St Meugan’s church near Brecon, mid-Wales[/caption]

SWNS:South West News Service

The ancient 55ft yew has switched from male to female, with some experts blaming it on stress.[/caption]


Ms Harrison said there was also a seven-metre-girth yew in 1837 which had one female branch on an otherwise male tree.

She added: “Another report from Germany reported male and female structures irregularly over the tree, each on separate twigs.”

But it is not just the yew which switches gender in the plant world. In 1980 the phenomenon was observed in more than 50 different species, she said.

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