The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is thought to be between 3,000 – 5,000 years old, but environmentalists are saying the tree may only live for 50 more years.
The yew tree, which stands tall inside the Fortingall Churchyard in Perthshire, has been left in increasingly bad health because of trophy hunting tourists ripping off its branches and keeping them as souvenirs.
Even though the tree is surrounded by a cage, tourists visiting Fortingall are still taking cuttings from the ancient yew.
Catherine Lloyd, the coordinator of the Tayside Biodiversity Community Partnership, said the tree has become stressed.
“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,” she said.
Neil Hooper, the tree warden for Fortingall, said they can’t tell how many visitors have vandalized the tree, but “certainly some needles, twigs, even bits of branches have been torn off”.
He said a more common problem is that visitors are climbing into the enclosure to tie beads and ribbons onto the tree’s branches.
Mr. Hooper continued by saying, “Recently the metal plaque put up by the Tree Council has been forced down and twisted flat face down, which must have taken considerable force, also by someone climbing into the enclosure.”
In a bid to keep the original specimen alive, seedlings from the yew will be planted at various kirkyards in Perthshire and Angus, as well at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.