By Amanda Williams
The oldest tree in Britain has started to change sex, it has been claimed.
The 5,000 year old Fortingall Yew, in Perthshire, Scotland, has for hundreds of years been recorded as 'male', meaning it produces pollen, whereas female yews produce red berries.
But in a 'rare and unusual phenomenon' baffling scientists, it has started to sprout red seeds, suggesting that part of the tree is changing gender.
Max Coleman of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who spotted the 'three red berries', said that the phenomenon could be caused by 'environmental stress'. He said: 'It's a rare occurrence... rare and unusual and not fully understood.
It's thought that there's a shift in the balance of hormone-like compounds that will cause this sex-change.
'One of the things that might be triggering it is environmental stress.'
The tree is otherwise healthy, but Mr Coleman said it would be monitored closely for further changes.