Hopes the Sycamore Gap tree will live on as cuttings show signs of viability

Experts think more than 30% of the seeds and half the cuttings taken from the tree after it was felled in September will be viable for propagation.

Dave Higgens
Wednesday 06 December 2023 11:35 GMT
Police officers look at the felled tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland.
Police officers look at the felled tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland. (PA Wire)

Hopes are high that the famous Sycamore Gap tree will live on despite its felling after scientists found that salvaged seeds and cuttings are showing positive signs of being viable for new growth.

There was a national outcry in September when the much-loved, 200-year-old Northumberland tree was found to have been cut down in mysterious circumstances.

The National Trust, which owns the land on which it stood, said it quickly collected material from the remains of the sycamore and work has been ongoing to work out whether it can be reborn from these cuttings and seeds.

On Wednesday, the charity announced that is is hopeful more than 30% of the mature seeds and half of the cuttings will be viable.

It is also hopeful that the trunk of the original tree will regrow, but it may be up to three years before this is known for sure.

Director of gardens and parklands at the National Trust Andy Jasper said: “After discovering the felled tree, our teams were quickly on the scene to collect material that would enable us to propagate from the tree.

“This work is taking place in our specialist rare plant propagation nursery and although this wasn’t really the right time of year to do this work, we are encouraged by positive signs of life, and are hopeful that over 30% of the mature seeds and half of the cuttings (scions) will be viable, which means we can hopefully grow new descendants from the tree in the future.”

“Over the next year, we’ll be doing all we can to nurture the seeds and cuttings in the hope that some will grow into strong, sturdy saplings – providing a new future for this much-loved tree.”

Mr Jasper said: “We are also hoping that the trunk of the original tree will regrow, but it could take up to three years before we know if this is possible.

“As with many things in landscape restoration, we need to be patient and take the time to let nature do its thing.”

The charity said it is also working on a “fitting tribute” to the tree to ensure its legacy lives on.

It said that this follows an unprecedented public response to the felling on National Trust and Northumberland National Park’s social media channels.

Both these organisations are working in partnership on a tribute and the trust said details of how people can get involved will be announced early in the New Year.

Andrew Poad, general manager of the site for the National Trust, said a specific appeal will be launched to go towards plans for the site and for the wood from the felled trunk.

Mr Poad said: “We’re incredibly grateful for the many commemorative ideas we’ve received since the tree was felled.

“The creativity and thought behind some of these ideas has been inspiring and is an indication of just how important this tree was for so many people.

One of the key themes that has shone through the suggestions is for more tree planting, so we’re encouraging anyone wishing to help the National Trust with its tree planting ambitions to donate to our Plant a Tree fund.”

Chief executive of Northumberland National Park Authority Tony Gates said: “We would like to thank everyone for their patience as we work behind the scenes and take a considered approach with our partners on what the next steps will be.

“Everyone involved is keen to engage with the public in a meaningful way, to do the right thing for nature and people and ensure, as we have always said, that the legacy of Sycamore Gap is one that is positive and heartfelt.”

Historic England is assisting the partnership on accurately dating the tree and said it hoped to have the results soon.

The partnership is inviting the public to submit their photos and memories of the tree to sycamoregap@nationaltrust.org.uk.

A teenager arrested after the tree was felled overnight on September 27 to 28 was later told he will face no further action by police. A man in his 60s and two men in their 30s, who were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, remain on bail.

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