They are ancient, beautiful, and supply us with the essentials for life itself. For whatever reason, humans seldom see them as little more than wasted space and building supplies. Trees are among the most under rated things on Planet Earth (right up there with air conditioners). Some trees are so impressive, however, that even humans realize their need for conservation. Here is a list of 10 arboreal ambassadors who best represent the cause of their wooden brethren.
10. The Alley of the Baobabs
The unique baobab tree has become the symbol of Madagascar. If you want to see a baobab, there is no place better than the Alley or (Avenue) of the Baobabs. Madagascar has six native species of baobab trees, and despite common perception, they are in fact native to forested areas. The reverence of the locals coupled with its natural fire resistant bark means that baobabs are left standing long after the foliage around them has been cleared either by natural bushfires or agricultural expansion. Unlike many trees, the baobab does not have annual rings signifying their growth. However, carbon dating technology has indicated that these trees can be thousands of years old. Baobab also bears fruit that can be used to make juice or natural health remedies. The hollowness inside its trunk makes this tree an ideal place for locals to use as storage (specifically for water). In 1993, the hollows of one of the more famous baobabs have been used to make a pub.
9. The General Sherman
If you like things big, real big, then the General Sherman is the tree for you. This puppy is the largest of all the giant sequoias and in fact has the most mass out of any single stemmed tree in the world. You can find the General and others like him at Sequoia National Park, California. The tree is almost 84 meters tall (275 ft). One of the most impressive features is that the oldest age placed on Sherman is 2700 years. Ol’ Shermy has found himself topping a multitude of categories, including being among the oldest trees with a confirmed age.
8. Old Tjikko
At first glance, Old Tjikko is as unimpressive as they come. Lacking foliage on half of its stem, this Norway Spruce tops out at a measly 16 meters. What is impressive about Old Tjikko, however, is that it is the oldest individual clonal tree. Granted, this title comes with its stipulations, so here is the fine print: a clonal tree can have a trunk that cyclically grows and dies. So while the tree itself is not the oldest standing piece of natural timber in the world, its apparatus (primarily its root system) has been in place for over 9500 years. You can snap a picture of this old fogey on Fulufjället Mountain within the aptly named Fulufjället National Park, Sweden.
7. Tāne Mahuta
New Zealand’s most famous type of tree is the kauri, megaliths that are charismatic in appearance and large by design. The cream of the crop is often considered Tāne Mahuta, a kauri (possibly up to 2500 years old, but unconfirmed) that is the largest and most revered tree among Pakeha (New Zealanders descended from European settlers) and Maori (indigenous people of NZ) alike. The tree’s Maori name translates roughly into “Lord of the Forest.” This tree has its own mythology that more than matches its visual splendor. Although kauri trees are impressively large, you won’t find the staggering girth of the giant sequoias. While kauris are also ancient in their own rites, you won’t find record breaking ages. What you will find, though, is a testament to the never ending relation between nature and spirituality.
6. Sri Maha Bodhi
Sri Maha Bodhi is found in Bodh Gaya, a place of religious pilgrimage for Buddhists. More specifically, the tree is found next to the Mahabodhi Temple, a temple marking the place where Buddha attained his enlightenment. In fact, legend has it that Buddha sat under the very tree that is there today. A shrine marks the place where Buddha is thought to have gazed at the tree with unblinking eyes for seven days. This ultimate show of respect and adoration was in response to the tree’s help in his illumination. The story is so widely regarded that this particular type of fig tree, wherever it is found, is now named the Bodhi Tree (or simply Bo) or the Sacred Fig.