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Britain's oldest Tree is undergoing a Sex Change

A British tree thought to be up to 5,000 years old has started to change sex, a "rare and unusual" phenomenon not fully understood by scientists, a botanist said Monday.

fortingall yew

Image: Alamy

The Fortingall Yew, in Perthshire, central Scotland has for hundreds of years been recorded as male, but has recently begun sprouting berries, suggesting that at least part of the tree is changing gender.

Max Coleman, of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh who discovered the berries, said it was “quite a surprise to me to find a group of three ripe red berries on the Fortingall Yew when the rest of the tree was clearly male.”


“Odd as it may seem, yews, and many other conifers that have separate sexes, have been observed to switch sex,” Mr Coleman added.

“Normally this switch occurs on part of the crown rather than the entire tree changing sex.

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“In the Fortingall Yew it seems that one small branch in the outer part of the crown has switched and now behaves as female.”

The partial transition of the Fortingall Yew is likely to generate further interest in the tree, which Dr Coleman said was already “a tree of international renown as potentially the oldest individual tree in Europe” – although its precise age is contested.

Video: Unusual Gender Changing Fish

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