The oldest tree in the UK has seen some tough times, but its toughest days may actually be the present ones. The Fortingall Yew, located in the Fortingall Churchyard in Perthshire, Scotland, is believed to between 3,000 and 5,000 years old. Many are concerned, however, that the tree’s days may be numbered, amid reckless treatment by tourists who visit it. People are snapping stems and tying tokens around branches, reducing its lifespan. A cage was even installed recently to discourage this kind of behavior, but visitors aren’t taking the hint — climbing over the cage to gain access to the tree.
Catherine Lloyd, coordinator of the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, said, “They are attacking this poor tree, it’s stressed, and whether that’s the reason this poor tree is not doing very well at the moment, we don’t know.” Researchers have suggested that the tree has about 50 years left to live, but Lloyd believes that time may be even shorter due to tourism-inflicted stress.
In lieu of restricting tourism altogether, there’s not too much that can be done about the issue. Smithonian reported that the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, however, is using cuttings from the Fortingall Yew to grow new saplings, with eventual hopes to distribute them to churchyards around the UK by 2020. In this way, it can live on.