New beginnings for the Sycamore Gap tree

The National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre report that the recovered seeds and twigs from the felled tree are showing signs of life.

Sycamore Gap Tree

The 300-year-old sycamore tree was brutally felled in an unforgivable act of vandalism in September 2023, prompting a national outcry. The iconic tree, stood for 200 years, as an unmistakable landmark in a dip in Hadrian’s Wall and Housesteads Fort in Northumberland National Park.

The National Trust Conservation Centre reported that several dozen seeds are now sprouting, having been planted in specially tested peat-free compost. In addition to sowing the seeds, they have also been using a variety of propagation methods to create genetically identical replicas of the tree, such as ‘budding’ (where a single bud from the original tree is attached to a rootstock of the same species) and grafting – applying both ‘whip and tongue’ and ‘apical wedge’ techniques.

The National Trust’s Conservation Centre is home to genetic copies of some of the UK’s most well-known and culturally significant plants and trees. They include the apple tree that Sir Isaac Newton said inspired his theories on gravity, and cuttings from the Ankerwycke Yew, which is estimated to be over 2,000 years old.

Andrew Jasper, National Trust Director of Gardens and Parklands, said: “These techniques, delivered with a remarkable degree of care and precision by our conservationists, are providing a legacy for this much-loved tree. And while there’s a way to go before we have true saplings, we’ll be keeping everything crossed that these plants continue to grow stronger and can be planted out and enjoyed by many in the future.”

Tony Gates, chief executive officer of the Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “I was at Sycamore Gap in the immediate hours following the felling of the tree, managing the unfolding story as it happened and responding to the media. Whilst all of that was taking place, a team from the National Trust arrived to collect seed and other material from the tree. The seed did not appear to be mature enough and the chances of success appeared slim, but the idea of a direct link from the tree, at the time of it being felled, was a powerful one. How great it is that experts have been able to bring us this direct connection and refreshed hope. I look forward to working with the National Trust as we see how these beacons can send hope far beyond Northumberland. I would like to thank the team who have made this happen.”