The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) in Scotland has developed a novel approach to tree conservation: incorporating historic and threatened trees in a "heritage hedge". Adding to the impressive conifer conservation work already carried out by RBGE, including the International Conifer Conservation Programme and the iCONic project, this additional programme generates both public engagement and interest in conifer conservation and provides an important conservation resource for threatened and historic Yew trees.
The hedge will be created using 2,000 small trees from the common yew (Taxus baccata). Planted around the perimeter of the Garden, it will cover a kilometre in length and take an estimated 10 years to complete.
At the heart of the project are progenies of the most ancient of all Yew Trees, the Fortingall yew which stands in Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Estimated to be 3,000 years old, it is thought to be the oldest living tree in the UK, if not in Europe.
In addition to this, RBGE has a precious collection of plants propagated from famous trees in England. These include cuttings from Down House in Kent, home of the legendary naturalist Charles Darwin, and from Borrowdale in Cumbria, made famous by William Wordsworth in his poem Yew Trees.
From Wales, there are plants from ancient yews which have stood for hundreds of years in church yards at Buttington in Powys, St Digain's in Llangernyw and St James's in Nantglyn, Denbighshire. Northern Ireland is represented by cuttings from the ancient yews at Crom Castle in County Fermanagh and the Republic of Ireland by small trees propagated from heritage yews at Muckross Abbey in Killarney.