Future of the famous Capon Tree in Jedburgh is hanging in the balance

A one thousand-year-old oak tree indelibly rooted in the history of Jedburgh has suffered a potentially deadly blow after one of its limbs collapsed to the ground.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 3:53 pm
The Capon Tree. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
The Capon Tree. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

The Capon Tree is one of the last surviving trees of the ancient Jedforest.

It is also one of only 50 trees included in The Tree Council’s book Great British Trees.

Its cultural importance to Jedburgh cannot be under-estimated.

A tradition since the Jethart Callant’s Festival was launched 75 years ago is the pinning of a sprig from the famous old tree onto the Callant’s lapel.

But late last week the tree suffered what could prove to be a fatal blow when half of it collapsed, perhaps as a result of heavy rainfall.

Now Lothian Estates is monitoring its condition and hoping for the best outcome.

Peter Darling, head forester with Lothian Estates, said: “What has happened is that one half of the tree supported by timber props – on the south side of the tree – has collapsed to the side and landed on the ground.

"It’s still intact on the root at that section, so we intend to leave it at the moment and see how it fairs, to see if that root is enough to support that proportion of the tree.

"I think what has caused it is the weight of all the recent rain on the leaves and a slight breeze or wind has rocked it and it has landed on the ground.

"I think the fact that it was supported just off the ground by props has meant it hasn’t snapped right the way off, so it’s still attached to half the tree.

"The tree has been in a delicate situation for a long time now.”

Mr Darling added: “Culturally it’s very important to the town. We’ll be keeping an eye on the health of that particular limb which is on the ground to see if it sustains growth in the tree and the leaves.

"The tree itself is rotten down the centre and even the section that is left standing is quite rotten.

"As a tree it could live for a lot longer but the biggest threat it has is wind causing the rest of the tree to come down but we will do what we can to prevent that happening.”

There is hope even if the tree should fall foul of the elements again.

Peter explained: “The Jedburgh Callant planted a tree there which was grown from an acorn off the original Capon Tree, so there is juvenile Capon Tree growing next to it. So there is continuity there and life will go on, although the original tree is quite resilient and could go on itself for some time yet.”