Gleek Hot Take: Even 5000-Year-Old Yew Trees Can Transition If They Want To, Dammit!

The other day I was thinking about making some candied yams. And then I remembered I don’t know how to make candied yams. I mean, do I have to candy them? Or do they candy themselves? But just because I don’t have time to learn about something doesn’t mean I can’t have an ironclad opinion about it. So get ready for a Gleek Take.

Full disclosure: my Gleek Takes are guaranteed to arrive piping hot, and in 30 minutes or less. Because 30 minutes is all the time I need to become a total expert on this thing I just learned about.

Except I’m not really gonna talk about candied yams. I’ll save that Gleek Take for Thanksgiving. What I am gonna talk about is transgendered trees. Yup, you read that right.

Apparently a 5000-year-old yew tree in Perthshire, Scotland, known as the Fortingall Yew, is currently undergoing a sex change. It’s transitioning from a he-tree to a she-tree. Records have always described the yew as a male tree, but recently the tree has started “sprouting berries” — something only female yew trees do.

Ironically “Sprouting Berries” is also the name of my Fifty Shades of Grey/Strawberry Shortcake fanfic.

Dr. Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden says the Fortingall Yew is definitely a male tree. Yews are normally either male or female, so sexing yews is generally easy. I don’t know about you, but I would have paid way more attention in Botany class if my teacher had said we were gonna spend the day sexing yews. 

Makes me think botanist sext messages are way hotter than I ever imagined. And if you don’t think I’ve imagined sexting a botanist, I present Exhibit A: “Can’t stop thinking about how that thick branch tapers to a knotty apex. U up?” 

Dr. Coleman went on to say that during winter, it’s pretty easy to spot the difference between male and female yews. Females have bright red berries, while males have tiny things that produce pollen.

“Tiny things?” Come on, bruh. Have you learned nothing from your long cold winters on the Scottish moors sexing yews? No dude likes hearing his treehood described as a “tiny thing.”

So after kicking it as a bro-tree for 5000 years, the Fortingall Yew is changing into a female. And I say, “Good for her!”

Maybe this yew was born a male tree, but always identified as female. Maybe she struggled with vague feelings of “not taking root” with the other dude trees. I believe it’s never too late to explore your true tree self, and I’m proud of her.

I say dangle a few sexy red berries on a low branch and see where it takes you. And who cares if you’re 5000 years old? There’s no such things as “too old” when it comes to a roll in the potting soil sack. Just ask Dr. Coleman. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on those luscious red berries. So he picked a few and planted them in pots.

If they germinate next spring, the Fortingall Yew will produce her first identifiable offspring in perhaps thousands of years.

I’m gonna go ahead and serve up a double stack of Gleek Takes on this one. Not only is the Fortingall Yew becoming female, but thanks to Dr. Grab Hands, she may also be a mother soon? To that I say, “Back off, buddy!”

This yew just put herself out there on the dating scene. She is literally the definition of Tinder, and now you’re trying to tie her down with yewlings? Let a tree get her roots wet, for crying out loud. She might like to sample some hardwoods. Perhaps try a little ash play. At the end of the day, maybe all she really wants is to “Netflix and chlorophyll.”

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