UK weather: ‘Newton’s apple tree’ blown over during Storm Eunice

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Storm Eunice knocked down a clone of “Issac Newton’s apple tree” the Cambridge University Botanic Garden has said. According to garden curator Dr Samuel Brockington, the tree was planted in 1954 and had been standing at the Brookside entrance of the botanic garden for nearly seven decades. This tree is said to be cloned from the same tree under which Sir Issac Newton is believed that have discovered the laws of gravity.

The Cambridge University Botanic garden later confirmed that it had a clone of the tree that would soon be planted elsewhere in the garden.

Dr Brockington shared this news on Twitter, saying: “We’ve just lost our “Newton’s Apple Tree” to Storm Eunice (gravity is such a downer, arf arf).

“The story of Newton’s famous discovery of universal gravitation, prompted by a falling apple in the garden of his childhood home Woolsthorpe Manor, is apparently well supported by numerous independent accounts from contemporaries of Newton.

“A single apple tree growing in his garden, a ‘Flower of Kent’ a variety, was identified as ‘THE tree’ and there is no doubt that possibly within 50 years of Newton’s death, an apple tree was being cherished as `the tree from which the apple fell’.

“Ironically, this tree was apparently felled in a gale (much like ours) in the early half of the 19th century, souvenirs were taken and furniture made – including a famous chair.”

The original tree, at Woolsthorpe Manor in Grantham, Lincolnshire was blown over by a gale in the 19th Century.

However it managed to survive since then has been propagating through the process of grafting, which involves binding one of the shoots of the tree onto another sapling.

Dr Brockington continued: “Several accounts exist of the tree being clonal propagated by grafting, and grown in estates including Belton House.

“But importantly a scion of this tree was grafted at the Fruit Research Station at East Malling – and from here most of the ‘Newton Apple Trees’ come.

“We recently had the genome of our tree sequenced by the Darwin Tree of Life project, so remarkably our cultural heritage is now also preserved in digital sequence data.

“From this analysis, our tree seems identical to the scions outside Trinity College and Wellcome Sanger Institute.”

Dr Brockington expressed regret over the “sad loss” of the tree due to Friday’s storm, the Botanic Garden noted it was “on its way out” due to a honey fungus infection.

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He said: Finally, in anticipation of its demise, we presciently engaged in some grafting over the past three years, and have three clones.

“One was gifted to Lord Sainsbury of Cambridge University, on the occasion of his birthday, the other two are held in our reserves to be planted out.

“So through the remarkable science of grafting, our scion of ‘Newton’s Apple Tree. will hopefully continue in our collections.”

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