Trees are by nature vastly multitudinous in their appearances, their content, varying with the season, geography and the climate on which it exists. Thus, no one tree at one particular time is exactly similar to another tree at that particular time, and no tree is at a particular time is similar to itself at another time.
The perceived beauty of trees, thus, depend on a number of factors. The magnificence of some trees, often exist beyond one’s expectations- They defy human imagination, leaving one wondering at the elegance and dignified beauty of nature, of the non-artificial grace inherent to the planet we inhabit. One can only hope that these trees do not meet the cruel end as innumerable others, perishing in the hands of rampant deforestation, fuelled by human greed.
To that end, the reader is presented with a list of ten trees, present since time immemorial.
10. General Sherman
This sequoia tree is located in the Sequoia National Park, California. General Sherman’s volume is considered to be the largest in the world for an individual tree, coming to slightly over 1486.6 cubic meters as measured in 1975. This non clonal tree stands at 275 feet and its diameter is 102.6 feet. The General’s age is estimated to be between 2300 to 2700 years.
9. Patriarca da Floresta
Located in Brazil, this tree, Patriarca de Floresta belongs to the species Cariniana legalis. This 3000 year old tree boasts an impressive stature. It stands at a height of 49 meters and the diameter of this tree’s trunk is 16 meters. The tree derived its name (which means ‘Patriarch of the Forest’) owing to its status of being the oldest non-conifer in South America. It is a popular belief that the tree is sacred and this view is supported by many. However, this tree is endangered because of widespread deforestation and loss of habitat.
8. Jōmon Sugi
Jomon Sugi is the oldest and largest conifer in Japan. Located in the Yakushima island, this cryptomeria tree’s height is 83 feet and girth 53 feet. The actual age of this tree has been the source of great debate, while some experts have claimed that the tree is 2000 years of age, others’ have said that the estimated age of the tree is not less than 7000 years. The name of this tree is derived from the fact that it dates back to the Jomon Period (13000 BC – 300BC). This formidable tree is one of the reasons as to why Yakushima has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7. The Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses
It is believed that this is one of Europe’s oldest trees. Located in east of Sicily on Mount Etna this chestnut tree’s age is estimated to be 3000-4000 years old and its girth is 190 feet. What is absolutely astounding is that this tree has survived despite it being located on Mount Etna which is an active volcano. Legend goes that Joan of Aragon, Queen of Naples, was caught in a thunderstorm and sought shelter under this tree alongside her entourage of a hundred knights including their horses. It is believed that this massive tree’s foliage was able to provide shelter to every single one of them including their horses, hence the nickname ‘The Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses’.
Fitzroya Cupressoids, commonly known as Alerce and Patagonian Cypress towers at 197 feet and the trunk boasts a diameter of 197 inches. Located in south Chile, this tree was declared a National Monument in 1976. This tree’s age is estimated to be around 3600 years. This evergreen tree’s regenerative prowess is spectacular and it can only be destroyed by fires.
5. Llangernyw Yew
This yew, aged 4000 year old is located in the Llangernyw village in Wales. This yew was planted during the Bronze Age. This tree has numerous offshoots and this is the reason as to why this tree still survives despite a fragmented core. There is also a very interesting legend associated with this yew which goes- every year on Halloween, a voice predicts the death of certain people within the following year. This yew was also included in the list of Fifty Great British Trees in 2002 in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II by the Tree Council.
4. Prometheus (WPN-114)
At an impressive 5000 years old, Prometheus is considered to be one of the oldest non – clonal organisms. Located in Nevada, United States, this bristlecone pine was chopped down in 1964 by graduate student Donald Currey aided by the U.S. Forest Service for research purposes. The tree stood at a majestic height of 17 feet with a circumference of 252 inches to boot before it was cut. The age of this tree was determined after it was felled. The tree’s designation WPN-114 was given by Currey as it was the 114th tree sampled for his research.
This 5000 year old bristlecone pine tree’s exact location is kept as a secret as it is deemed necessary for this tree’s protection. As a pre-emtive measure to prevent its identification, no public photograph of this tree exists . This tree, nearly 5000 year old remains concealed in plain sight at the Inyo National Forest in the White Mountains of California, amongst other bristlecone pines in a grove named ‘Forest of Ancients’. The name, Methuselah is derived from the Bible (one of Noah’s ancestors who lived upto nearly a 1000 year was called Methuselah). The first pyramid built in Egypt, at Saqqara by Pharaoh Djoser could be considered Methuselah’s contemporary. Methuselah, until 2013 was considered the oldest non – clonal tree before the title was usurped by another older bristlecone pine.
(Here is a photograph of a bristlecone pine which in all possibility could be Methuselah, not that we would know.)
2. Old Tjikko
Don’t let this tree’s appearance fool you, old trees don’t always have to look grand. Despite this Norway Spruce’s, unassuming appearance it has survived for nearly a millennium, 9500 years now. Located in the Fulufjallet National Park, Sweden, this tree is believed to have been part of a clonal colony as individual trees aren’t known to live that long. The tree was named ‘Old Tjikko’ by the discoverer Leif Kullman after his deceased Siberian Husky.
Pando is an 80,000 year old clonal colony of Quaking Aspen. Located in Utah, USA, it is also popularly known as the ‘Trembling Giant’. The grove consisting of around 50, 000 trees is spread over an area of 106 acres and its estimated weight is close to 6200 tons. The Latin meaning of the word Pando is ‘I spread’ and the name is extremely well-suited as it is believed that this organism is supposed to have been spreading for thousands of year. The network of roots of this tree is located deep in the ground, they sprout new shoots, revive trees that are dying etc and are also protected from forest fires because of their fortunate placement thus rendering this tree near invulnerable.