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Seeds collected from Sycamore Gap ‘spring into life’ at National Trust centre

Seeds and buds rescued from the Sycamore Gap are “springing into life” at a specialist conservation centre, giving hope the famous tree will live on.

Staff at the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre have been carefully looking after the recovered seeds and twigs for the past five months.

The 300-year-old sycamore tree was felled in an act of vandalism in September which prompted national outcry. It stood in a dip in Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland National Park, on land owned by the trust.

After the incident, staff quickly collected material from the remains of the tree. In the months since, experts have used a range of techniques to cultivate the rescued material.

Sycamore Gap tree felled
The National Trust Plant Conservation Centre, where seedlings and grafted buds and shoots taken from the Sycamore Gap tree are being nurtured (James Dobson/National Trust Images/PA)

Andrew Jasper, director of gardens and parklands at the National Trust, 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.”

Pictures released on Saturday showed a collection of small seedlings and buds beginning to grow.

One process known as “grafting” has involved joining cuttings from the tree with living twigs and rootstock of the same species to try to create genetically identical replicas of the Sycamore Gap.

Another technique known as “budding” has involved attaching single buds from the original tree to a rootstock.

The National Trust Plant Conservation Centre - where seedlings and grafted buds and shoots taken from the ‘sycamore gap’ tree which was cut down in September 2023, are being nurtured. Seeds and buds rescued from the Sycamore Gap are 'springing into life' at a specialist conservation centre, giving hope the famous tree will live on
Seeds and buds rescued from the Sycamore Gap are ‘springing into life’ at a specialist conservation centre, giving hope the famous tree will live on (James Dobson/National Trust Images/PA)

The seeds meanwhile have been grown in a special compost mix, after being washed and checked for disease. Several dozen have now sprouted.

Wood from the tree has been carefully treated and is being stored under advice from experts.

The National Trust’s specialist 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.

Plans for the Sycamore Gap seeds are still in development and saplings will not be ready for planting out for at least 12 months, the trust has said.

The organisation has been working with Northumberland National Park, Historic England and the Hadrian’s Wall partnership to plan a range of responses to the tree’s felling.

The National Trust Plant Conservation Centre - where seedlings and grafted buds and shoots taken from the ‘sycamore gap’ tree which was cut down in September 2023, are being nurtured. Seeds and buds rescued from the Sycamore Gap are 'springing into life' at a specialist conservation centre, giving hope the famous tree will live on
Plans for the Sycamore Gap seeds are still in development (James Dobson/National Trust Images/PA)

Later this year, a programme of events including work with local schools, tree planting initiatives in Northumberland, and artistic interpretations will take place.

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.”