For 150 years, it has stood in splendid serenity on the village green, harming no one and pleasing many.
Over the decades, the monkey puzzle tree at West Cross, near Swansea, became a much-loved local landmark.
But now it is facing the chop … because, in modern Britain, the needle-like points of its leaves are deemed a danger to health and safety.
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Threatened: A 150-year-old monkey puzzle tree is facing the chop after health and safety experts said its needles could injure schoolchildren
One expert likened the effect of the needles to being pricked by a hypodermic syringe.
‘Every effort is made in this day and age to prevent children playing with discarded syringe needles,’ a report stated.
‘Every effort must be made to prevent children coming into contact with these potentially, equally sharp needles.’
But a campaign to save the 50ft tree, also known as a Chilean Pine, has been launched by residents, who insist the prickly foliage is not likely to present the same risk of spreading infectious diseases as a discarded syringe.
The protest is being led by Mike and Carol Crafer, who are threatening
to sell up if the tree – which stands in front of their home – is axed. ‘It’s another case of health and safety gone mad,’ said Mrs Crafer, a 49-yearold mother of two. ‘The tree’s needles are not that dangerous – comparing them to syringes is ridiculous.
‘The tree is part of the local landscape and has been for a century and a half. It rarely sheds its foliage and there are plenty of volunteers here who would be happy to clear up the needles.’
Danger: Tom Henderson, five, of West Cross, Swansea, with one of the needles
Her husband, a 57-year-old sustainability manager with Thames Water, said: ‘This is a crazy decision to cut the tree down.
‘We have put this to the test by trying to prick ourselves with the needles, but have not been able to – that’s how dangerous they are.’
The Crafers led more than 30 banner-waving residents in a protest against Swansea Council’s decision to cut the tree down,
The council brought in two independent health and safety experts who both advised to give the monkey puzzle the chop, especially since a new school is being opened nearby.
A council spokesman said: ‘Safety experts have said the tree is too much of a risk to children for it to remain.
‘One expert likened the tree foliage to discarded syringe needles and warns they pose a probable risk of serious injury to children. The authority could find itself defending any litigation, should this arise.’
However, Martin Caton, MP for Gower, Swansea, yesterday said the decision ‘stinks’.
He added: ‘ I urge everyone who cares about the quality of their environment to protest against this council plan.’
The monkey puzzle tree: A 'living fossil' the dinosaurs dined on
• The monkey puzzle tree is native to the Andes of Chile and Argentina.
• Plant collector Archibald Menzies is thought to have introduced it to Britain in
• It got its name when a gardener in Cornwall was showing his specimen to friends and one remarked: ‘It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.’
• It is sometimes associated with bad luck.
• Often described as a living fossil, its family the Araucariaceae can be traced back to the Mesozoic era, which started 250million years ago.
• Far from deterring monkeys, the spiky leaves probably developed to try to fend off grazing dinosaurs.
• Araucarias can live for 1,200 years and reach 160ft.
• To some indigenous peoples of Chile and Argentina, the tree is sacred.
• The seeds were traditionally collected as a food crop.