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Oldest Tree In Britain Changes Sex

SACRAMENTO (CBS Sacramento) -- The oldest tree in Britain appears to have changed sexes.

The famous Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland, is thought to be as much as 5,000 years old.

Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden recently posted in his blog that a small branch with berries on the male Fortingall Yew tree sparked his curiosity.

"Males have small spherical structures that release clouds of pollen when they mature. Females hold bright red berries from autumn into winter. It was, therefore, quite a surprise to me to find a group of three ripe red berries on the Fortingal yew this October when the rest of the tree was clearly male," Coleman wrote.

Coleman stated that yews have been previously observed to switch sex.

"Normally this switch occurs on part of the crown rather than the entire tree changing sex. In the Fortingall Yew it seems that one small branch in the outer part of the crown has switched and now behaves as female," he wrote.

Coleman explained that three seeds were collected and will be part of a project to "conserve the genetic diversity of yew trees across their geographic range."

The oldest tree in the United States is thought to be the Methuselah in California's White Mountains. The tree is believed to be nearly 5,000 years old.

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