Category Archives: Flora of Britain

The oldest tree in Britain

The Fortingall Yew is generally considered as the oldest tree in Britain. Like many yews, it stands in a churchyard. Yews were sacred for the Celts, and the Christian church often found it expedient to take over these existing sacred sites for churches. This oldest of yews is the village of Fortingall in Perthshire. Recent tests suggest the tree is some 2,000 years old, rather younger than the 5,000 years claimed by some, but still probably one of the oldest trees in Northern Europe. The yew was vandalised for tourist trinkets in the 19th century, and its once massive girths is now split into several trunks, giving the impression of several smaller trees.

In defence of Botany in the UK

Michael McCarthy has written this excellent defence of wild botany in the UK in the Independent. He compares the fewer than 10,000 members of Plantlife, to the love of cultivated plants with the 360,000 members of the Royal Horticultural Society, and the more than one million members of the RSPB. “In 2007/8, 18,405 students were accepted to read biology in British universities, while just 195 for botany.

Climbing a redwood

BBC Radio 4 Nature on tree climber James Aldred climbing and sleeping in one of Britain’s tallest trees, a giant redwood, at a secret location. Lots on the natural history of the giant redwoodwhich was introduced into the UK in the 18th century.

  • Read and Listen (BBC)
  • See also Giant Redwoods, Coast Redwoods and Dawn Redwoods in the UK Read

Bluebells and folklore


A new page added to the landscape glossary “Bluebell woods” including

  • In Elizabethan times bluebell bulbs were crushed to provide starch for the ruffs of collars and sleeves.”
  • The sticky sap from the bluebell leaves was used for attaching feathers to arrows.
  • If you are unlucky enough to hear the bluebells ringing then you will die within a year.

Read bluebell woods