Sex Change in Trees

When Rita and I were walking in Lancashire a couple of weeks ago, we noticed that some ash tress had masses of keys on them whiilst others had none. I had to admit that I didn’t know off the top of my head whether ash is dioecious (separate male and female plants). After a  little research it turned out to be more complicated than I had expected. Male or female trees are common, but trees can also change sex from season to season, or even have flowers of different sexes on the same branch.

This came back to me when I received this news item:

“After 5,000 years, Britain’s Fortingall Yew is turning female”

You can read about it from the link but interestingly, author Max Cleman says “yews, and many other conifers that have seperate sexes, have been 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.”


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