There's Still Hope for Iconic Tree Felled in UK

The stump is healthy, but sycamore will take centuries to regrow to former size, expert say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2023 10:07 AM CDT
New Shoots Will Regrow From Beloved Tree Felled in UK
A forensic investigator from Northumbria Police photographs the felled Sycamore Gap tree, in Northumberland, England, Friday Sept. 29, 2023.   (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

The British are mourning one of the country's most famous trees, a centuries-old sycamore that was felled Wednesday night in what authorities have described as an appalling act of vandalism. But the Sycamore Gap tree, which grew in a gap between hills along Hadrian's Wall in northern England, isn't dead and arborist say it will likely grow new shoots next spring. "It's a very healthy tree, we can see that now, because of the condition of the stump, it may well regrow a coppice from the stump, and if we could nurture that then that might be one of the best outcomes, and then we keep the tree," National Trust manager Andrew Poad tells the BBC.

The tree was estimated to be around 300 years old, though it's not clear whether anybody has counted the rings yet to confirm the age. Experts say that while regrowth is likely, it won't be the same again, at least not in our lifetimes. It will "take a few years to develop into even a small tree and around 150 to 200 years before it is anywhere close to what we have lost," says Mark Feather at the Woodland Trust. "Once a tree of this age has gone, the sad truth is you can't replace them within any visible timeframe. It takes centuries." Rob Ternert, head gardener at the nearby Alnwick Garden, predicts there will be "bushy" growth around 8 feet high at the stump next spring, the Chronicle reports.

Landscape writer and poet Robert Macfarlane said Friday that he was sickened by the loss of the landmark, the Guardian reports. "It was a film star—it starred in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves," he said. "It was a tree that ashes were scattered under, marriages were made under, and it was a shelter for tired walkers." He described the felling as part of a wider "war on nature" and said the best way to honor it would be to plant a whole forest in its place. Police said a 16-year-old boy arrested Thursday on suspicion of criminal damage was released on bail Friday, the AP reports. (Read more United Kingdom stories.)

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