Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 15:29 UK

Ancient tree 'one of UK's best'

Fortingall Yew
The Fortingall Yew is thought to be the oldest living organism in Europe

An ancient Perthshire yew has made the top 10 in a list of the most important trees in the UK.

The Fortingall Yew, which grows at a churchyard near Aberfeldy, could be up to 5,000 years old and is among the oldest living organisms in Europe.

Local legend has it that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus, was born in its shade and played there as a child.

It is heading a list of 22,000 trees being compiled by the Woodland Trust.

The document is being drawn up to highlight the need to protect the UK's trees.

'Remarkably special'

Jill Butler, from the trust, told the BBC Scotland news website that the Fortingall Yew was a very significant living thing.

"That is remarkably special, many yews can grow to a very great age, but the majority of yews in the UK people would think would be up to about 3,000 years old," she said.

"So if it was up to 5,000 years old, it would be very very special indeed and in a European context very important too."

The charity's aim is to have 100,000 ancient trees on its list by the time the project ends.

Ms Butler said: "We should draw attention to how important our tree heritage is. Many of these trees are just as important as our built heritage and a lot older than some of our buildings, and yet, they don't have the same recognition status as some of our most important buildings.

"We've overlooked our tree heritage for so long and the trees deserve to be properly recognised for what they've done for us down the centuries.

"These trees have provided us with so much - they're so beautiful, they're so full of wildlife and they tell us stories about our lives in past times and that's really really significant."


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