It’s never too late but it’s rather uncommon, as an ancient tree is changing its sex after 5,000 years, or at least going through a semi-change so far.
- The Fortingall Yew is in Perthshire, Scotland
- It has been there for the past 5,000 years and has been recorded as strictly male
- One of its branches is showing signs of turning female, by producing fruit
- Experts have plucked some of them for sampling and examination
The Fortingall Yew is one oldest trees in Europe, and the oldest one in the United Kingdom. For the better part of five millennia, it’s been rooted in Perthshire, Scotland and was identified across multiple records as being male. However, a botanist has recently found that it has produced fruits on one branch, a trait typical for females.
There are several types of ‘genders’ where it concerns plants and trees. It’s not as simple for them as it is for humans. Many flowers are hermaphrodite, with both male and female reproductive parts. Some have developed mechanisms of pollinating themselves, thus ensuring their continual survival.
Others are monoecious, which means they grow both female and male parts on the same plant, for example cucumbers. And then there are plants that are dioecious, which is a more familiar concept to us. This means that certain species have either female or male plants, separated entirely. The females bore the fruit, and need to be close together to males in order to produce them.
The Fortingall Yew is a dioecious species of plant. They generally have just one gender, with merely occasional sightings of both parts on the same tree. However, it’s highly uncommon and very rare on one specimen that is 5,000 years old. Through all its living memory, it has been male, but it’s now showing signs of turning, at least partly, female.
The botanist has noted that on one branch of the tree, there are red berries starting to show. He suggested that the yew tree is now producing a “sport”. This means that one part of it is becoming morphologically different from the rest of the plant. That particular branch has switched sex, and is now acting as a female by producing fruit.
It’s still unknown how, and it’s considered “a rare occurrence” for such an old tree to experience a shift. Experts suggests that this might be due to the different flowering preference during the stages of its growth. The case is apparent for certain types of flowers, who start out as males, and then becoming females as they grow.
However, the Fortingall Yew has been through various changes, but over 5,000 years had not changed its sex. Of course, this has not been deemed as an official alternation. It’s just a partial change on one of its branches. Regardless, botanists have plucked some of its fruits and will undergo examination to understand why.
Image source: inhabitat.com