Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 Famous Trees

Stacy Conradt
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Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day the world lost one of its oldest living organisms. But don't pine for it - the death of Prometheus allowed scientists to branch out into new territory, to grow to new heights, and to turn over a new leaf.

OK, OK, that was weak, even by my standards. But the fact of the matter is, on August 6, 1964, a graduate student and the U.S. Forest Service cut down a tree thought to have been at least 5,000 years old. It's now kind of a celebrity conifer, if you can imagine such a thing - it has the star status Brangelina of trees with the age of Abe Vigoda. But believe it or not, there is enough illustrious timber out there to create a whole forest - here are 10 rather wondrous pieces of wood.

PROMETHEUS
PROMETHEUS /

2. ...such as Methuselah. Methuselah is now thought to be the world's oldest, non-clonal organism and, at the current age of 4,841 years old, is just a hair younger than ol' Prometheus. It resides somewhere in the White Mountains of California in the Inyo National Forest, but thanks to the Prometheus controversy, its exact location isn't known to many people. I mean, you can probably find it if you really wanted to, but the U.S. Forest Service is certainly making it a point to keep Methuselah's exact coordinates as quiet as possible.

tenere
tenere /

4. Similarly, the 400-plus-year-old Tree of Life in Bahrain sits in the middle of the desert, with no known water supply whatsoever. It's about 1.2 miles away from the Mountain of Smoke, the highest point in Bahrain. This is not to be confused with the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, which is 145 feet tall and not actually a tree (it's fake, all fake).

5. It's also not to be confused with El Árbol del Tule, Mexico's Tree of Life. This cypress is huge, with a trunk of more than 118 feet in circumference. It's so mammoth that people originally thought it was several trees that had somehow grown into one giant growth over the years, but tests have proven that the tree is, in fact, a single being. Estimates think the tree has had about 3,000 birthdays or so, but one claim places the tree at an age older than Methuselah - 6,000 years old. The Zapotecs tell the story that Pechocha, a priest of the Aztec storm god, planted the tree 1,400 years ago.

SONOFTREE
SONOFTREE /

I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree . . . of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.

Sadly, the Tree That Owns Itself collapsed, a victim of root rot, in 1942. A bunch of acorns were taken from the tree and planted as seedlings, and a few years later, the best one was chosen to replace the Tree That Owns Itself. Today, you can see Son of Tree That Owns Itself planted proudly in the same spot his father stood more than 60 years ago.

8. Caesarsboom, a European Yew, is so-named because it's so old that legend has it that Caesar once hitched his horse up to it and then took a nap in its shade. It grows in Lo, a town in Belgium, and although it's a pretty cool story, it probably doesn't have much truth to it - there's no real evidence that Caesar ever passed through the area.

9. The Glastonbury Thorn was a very important Hawthorn on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey that was purported to be planted by Joseph of Arimathea himself. It flowered twice a year, which was considered to be quite miraculous at the time. The original Thorn was cut down during the English Civil War, but many cuttings had been taken of it as part of a money-making scheme - pieces were sold to people who jumped at the chance to have their own "sacred tree." One of these cuttings was replanted and stood until 1992, when the tree, pronounced dead in 1991, was finally removed. Up until that point, it had been tradition to send the Sovereign a spray ("Holy Thorn," it was called) from the Glastonbury Thorn every Christmas, starting back during the reign of James I. That tradition still continues, but the spray is now sent from trees that grew from some of the oldest cuttings.
Even though it's gone, the legend of the original Thorn is still around - in 1965, Queen Elizabeth II donated a wooden cross with the inscription, ""The cross, the symbol of our faith, the gift of Queen Elizabeth II, marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its origin."

jaya
jaya /

Do you have a famous tree in your area? We had one in Iowa "“ it's what gave the town of Lone Tree its name. It was the only tree located between the Iowa and Cedar rivers and pioneers used it as a landmark. It died in the 1960s, sadly, but the town name is still around to remind us of what once was.

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