Traquair yews in unique conservation project

Martin Gardner with a young tree from the Traquair yews before it was planted last week
Martin Gardner with a young tree from the Traquair yews before it was planted last week
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Young trees grown from ancient yews at Traquair House near Innerleithen are being planted to create a unique heritage hedge at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).

The planting started last week using young trees propagated from old trees around Scotland, including four at Traquair.

RBGE’s international conference conservation programme coordinator, Martin Gardner told The Southern: “We were trying to get an even spread from heritage yews and we particularly wanted to concentrate on Scottish yews.

“There are 1,5000 throughout the UK. We wanted ones with interesting stories: the four at Traquair are quite old – about 400 years or more – and they may be remnants from the Ettrick Forest which used to surround the house in mediaeval times ... it’s a story hedge.

The Traquair plants are part of a 10-year project to create a one-kilometre long hedge that the RBGE hope will provide an insight into heritage yew trees at the same time as being a serious conservation project. Around 80 per cent of the 2,000 young plants within the hedge will be from populations worldwide, where the common yew (Taxus baccata) is listed nationally as threatened.

Mr Gardner added: “This is the first time that a botanic garden will be surrounded by a conservation hedge and it is of great importance. There is a need to conserve old-growth trees and remnant populations and to safeguard plant biodiversity in the face of global environmental change.

“Yews are hollow so its very difficult to age them; they manage to reinvigorate themselves, they die in the middle, but keep producing new wood. The attraction (of the them) is the fact that they are so long-lived, they’re eternal and evergreen.

“I think we should really feel quite proud that we have such a fantastic tree to celebrate.

“Once the hedge is established, I look forward to being asked why the yew hedge is not uniform in growth, colour and texture. My response will simply be ‘Ah, but that is biodiversity for you’.”