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Possibly the oldest tree on our planet grows in a small churchyard in Scotland

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A Yew tree that is thought to be between 2000 and 5000 years old can be spotted in a small Kirkyard, in Glen-Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland. Much mystery and folklore surrounds the old tree.

In a small churchyard in Fortingall, Perthshire, grows an enduring Yew Tree that is steeped in folklore and legend. Thought to be at least 3000 years old the tree attracts visitors from all over the world.

Some have claimed that Pontius Pilate played under the tree after he was conceived in Scotland. It is thought that a Roman ambassador came to Scotland, as part of a diplomatic mission, and whilst in Scotland he fathered Pilate. Others claim that Pilate was born in Italy, but his father heard the news of his birth whilst standing by the Yew tree.

The significance of the Yew tree is central to Scottish culture and it also features in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, as part of the three witches’ potion. It is believed that clansmen would also hold a branch of the Yew tree whilst slandering their adversaries to give them protection (Scotsman, 2017).

Surrounding Fortingall there is a Bronze Age burial ground – Càrn na Marbh. In addition there is also an Iron Age cult centre which may have utilised the Yew tree as its focus. It is believed that the area surrounding Fortingale was Christianised in the Dark Ages, which would’ve seen a demise in its sacred significance.

Although the Yew Tree’s pagan significance may have faded there continue to be references to it in Scottish Culture. The Fraser Clan continue to wear sprigs of Yew in their bonnets.

Yew trees are renowned for their slow growth and their endurance. There are many Yew trees in Scotland that are believed to be at least 1000 years old. This particular Yew also changed its sex, from male to female, in 2015, and began producing berries. Although it is difficult to gauge the exact age of the Fortingall Yew – recent estimates put its age at about 3000 years – before the formation of the Roman Kingdom.

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