IT is said to have influenced the work of JRR Tolkien and inspired creatures in Lord of the Rings.

But now an iconic pinus negra – or black pine – is being felled in Oxford University’s Botanic Garden after two of its limbs fell off over the weekend.

Experts at Oxford City Council and the university have examined the 20-metre tall tree and decided it has to be cut down, but have not been able to determine what caused the limbs to fall off, damaging a wall.

Dr Alison Foster, acting director of the garden, said: “The black pine was a highlight of many people’s visits to the Botanic Garden and we are very sad to lose such an iconic tree.”

Tolkien, who was a fellow of Pembroke College and Merton College and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, was extremely fond of the tree and has been pictured sitting underneath it and standing beside it.

Oxford Mail:

The Botanic Garden’s 60ft black pine tree is to be cut down after some of its huge branches started to fall off

It is also said to have been the inspiration for the Ents in Lord of the Rings – a race of creatures which resemble trees and come to the aid of two of the Hobbits.

Dr Stuart Lee, an English lecturer at Merton College who has studied the fiction and manuscripts of Tolkien said: “Tolkien hated the wanton destruction of trees for no reason but it sounds to me like this is for all the right reasons so whilst this is sad news, it is inevitable.”

It is thought that the tree was planted in 1799 from seed that was collected by the Third Sherardian Professor of Botany, John Sibthorp, in Austria.

Academics at Oxford University now hope to be able to study the tree, which will gradually be cut down, piece by piece, over the coming weeks.

Dr Stephen Harris of its Department of Plant Sciences said: “The pine having to be cut down means that we have the opportunity to date the tree precisely and determine whether Sibthorp is likely to have been involved.”

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone's contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

Our top stories