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Scottish acorns go behind bars

Acorns collected from ancient oaks at Cadzow have been sent to prison. They will be tenderly nurtured and released back into the community in a few years when they have completed their sentence.

Cadzow Oaks seed collection

Ancient trees have proved that they have the mix of genes for longevity and have survived the vagaries of many centuries if not quite a millennium. The seed they produce is made up of half the genes from the parent ancient tree and half from another tree of the same species in the vicinity.

We don’t know how important the half from the ancient tree will be in helping offspring cope with changing conditions but it is great to carry forward the heritage associated with the original trees.

Lead verifier, Judy Dowling and other volunteers in Scotland have been collecting acorns from the ancient oaks at Cadzow, although the mast from last autumn was very poor and they had to search very hard.

The seed has been given to Cornton Vale Women's and youth offenders’ prison, and Castle Huntly Open prison. To top up this year’s crop, Paul Cook from Sherwood Forest very kindly sent through acorns from the Major Oak.

While at Castle Huntly, Judy took the opportunity to properly measure an old yew tree in the grounds. She says “it has 5 huge stems from its first layering, (two are over 2m in girth) then it goes on to a second layering, (also large stems) and is now romping onto its third....and circumference of it all is over 150.3m - after they have clipped it back this spring”

It is possible that this tree could have had the largest crown for a yew in the UK had it not been cut back so much. Fortunately Judy was allowed back out at the end of the day to carry on with all her great tree work.