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5,000 Years Old: Ancient Yew Tree Identified In Wales

It might be the oldest tree in Britain. A yew tree that sprawls over a churchyard in Wales is more than 5,000 years old, according to experts. While it's not exceptionally tall, the tree has a wide canopy. And it dates back to the era of Egypt's pharaohs.

From NPR's London bureau, Rich Preston reports:

"The 60-foot-wide yew tree sits in the grounds of St Cynog's churchyard near Swansea in Wales. Recent DNA and ring-count testing shows the tree to be more than 5,000 years old — making it older than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

"Yew tree expert Janis Fry says she's confident it's Britain's oldest tree. She's been studying trees for 40 years, and much of her focus has been on yew trees. They formed an important part of ancient rituals, and Janis says this one was probably planted in honor of a Neolithic chieftan.

"Wales is one of the most significant places in Europe for ancient yew trees, and the church has launched a campaign to protect these historic assets."

If you're wondering about the tree's wide girth, it seems that it split in two at some time in its long history — leaving one section that's 20 feet wide and another that's measured at 40 feet.

That's according to The Daily Mail, which says that yew trees' ability to survive such fractures is one reason they can live so long.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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