A hawthorn planted by Mary, Queen of Scots in Fife is among the contenders to be named Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2020.
Queen Mary’s Thorn grows inside St Mary’s Quad at St Andrews University and is almost certainly the oldest tree in the Fife town.
Mary, Queen of Scots visited the town regularly and is thought to have planted the thorn in the 1560s – which makes it an exceptional age for a hawthorn.
The tree is still growing well, with supports, and lots of aerial roots.
The hawthorn still flowers and fruits every year.
St Mary’s Quad is a very busy place and scholars from all over the world, as well as many tourists and locals, pass the thorn every day.
Scotland’s Tree of the Year competition has been run annually by the Woodland Trust Scotland since 2014. The winning tree will receive a care package worth £1,000 which can be spent on works to benefit its health, interpretation signage or community celebration.
Woodland Trust Scotland director Carol Evans said: “We felt a definite lockdown effect in the competition this year, with twice the usual number of nominations.
“There was a common theme to a lot of the trees and their stories – of tenacity and hanging on against the odds.
“There were a handful of trees just outside the final six, which had been discovered or were provoking particular affection during people’s daily walks.
“Everyone has taken solace from the nature on their doorstep and it has been quite moving to see so many trees that became places to escape, gyms and classrooms.
“Trees were there for us, as they always are when we need to boost our mental health and wellbeing.” Fifty trees were nominated by the public earlier in the year.
These have been whittled down by a panel of judges with five finalists now going to the public vote.
Up against the St Andrews entrant are the Climate Change Tree in Alloa, the Lord President’s Oak near Inverness, the Milarrochy Oak at Loch Lomond and the Survivor Tree in the Borders.
A sixth, the Great Yew of Ormiston in East Lothian, was withdrawn despite making the shortlist.
Similar competitions are taking place in England and Wales.
Other Tree of the Year contenders
The Milarrochy Oak
This tenacious little tree is in a picturesque bay on Loch Lomond, near the village of Balmaha, in Scotland’s first National Park and on the route of the famous West Highland Way.
Standing not quite in and not quite out of the loch, it has survived despite its less than ideal location. Its contorted appearance and exposed roots, together with its scenic backdrop, have made it a subject for countless photographers.
The tree defies logic and shows the power of nature and the resilience that exists around us.
The Lord President’s Oak
Lord Culloden, Duncan Forbes, who was Lord President of the Court of Session, would sit with his wife Mary on a large stone to admire the view of the Moray Firth.
The stone was moved to its present position in 1855 to make way for the Highland railway and it is thought the oak was planted at that time.
It is on the path to St Mary’s Clootie Well that played a part in pagan celebrations.
The Climate Change Tree
A sycamore at Gartmorn Dam near Alloa in a post-industrial landscape. Sherriffyards Colliery closed in 1921 and the site is now a country park and nature reserve. The tree is a potent symbol for our times, a living carbon capturer that triumphs as the colliery spoil diminishes.
Voting opens online today in the competition run by conservation charity the Woodland Trust.
Voting is at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treeoftheyear and runs until September 24.
One lucky voter will win a £100 voucher for clothing and homeware store Joules.