Tree fans rejoice, as voting for the 9th annual European Tree of the Year contest is now open. This year the number of participating countries has increased to 15, with France and the Netherlands joining in on the fun.
If you’re not familiar with the European Tree of the Year contest, it’s a friendly competition started in 2011. Last year‘s winner was Portugal’s impressive cork oak, the Whistler Tree. Here is the goal of the contest as described by the organizers, the Environmental Partnership Association:
The purpose of the European Tree of the Year is to highlight the significance of old trees in the natural and cultural heritage that deserves our care and protection. Unlike other contests, the European Tree of the Year doesn’t focus on beauty, size or age but rather on the tree’s story and its connection to people.
Although the trees are all located in Europe, anyone is invited to vote. You can only vote once, but you can select your two favorite trees. The organizers are looking into expanding the contest to countries outside of Europe, so stay tuned for details!
Without further ado, here are the finalists for the European Tree of the Year 2019.
The Our Lady Tree of Lummen
Species: European Beech (fagus sylvatica)
Region: Lummen, Province of Limburg, BELGIUM
GPS: N 50°59’13.7″, E 5°10’36.3″
A place of worship and community
This monumental red beech stands on a high mound in a protected park behind the Our Lady chapel in the village of Lummen. In the early 17th century, an old beech had a statue of Mary that was worshipped. When the statue mysteriously vanished in 1641, a chapel was built and the original tree cut down. The faithful took pieces of the tree as relics and the wood was used to carve images of Mary. The current tree stands in the proud tradition of its ancestor.
The venerable Turkey oak near Rani lug village
Species: Turkey Oak (quercus cerris)
Age: More than 300 years
Region: Village of Rani lug, Tran Municipality, BULGARIA
GPS: 42°49’04″N, 22°29’20″E
The oak of the village by the marshlands
The impressive venerable Turkey oak grows near St. Nicholas Church. The locals take great pride in this beautiful tree, which creates a unique environment by the 15th century church. The church was home to the first local school, established in 1859. The village is in the Tran region, which is renowned for having preserved the most ancient names of its settlements. “Rani lug” tells more about local geography and nature. “Rani” means “early”, while “lug” means “meadow” and “marshland”.
Species: Large-Leaved Linden (tilia platyphyllos)
Age: Around 500 years
Region: Gornja Stubica, Krapina-Zagorje County, CROATIA
GPS: 45°58’24.2″N 16°00’48.5″E
A witness of a battle for justice
This ancient linden is a living witness of the Great Peasant Revolt that took place in 1573. According to the legend Matija Gubec gathered his followers beneath its canopy and led them into a fight for their class rights. Due to its age and historical significance the linden was declared a protected natural monument. The fact that the Croatian Forest Research Institute Jastrebarsko has grown the seedlings of Gubec linden using vegetative propagation method proves how valuable it is to our people.
Lime tree of Liberty
Species: Large-Leaved Lime (tilia platyphyllos)
Age: 100 years
Region: Velké Opatovice, South Moravian Region, THE CZECH REPUBLIC
GPS: 49°36.64462′ N, 16°39.88643′ E
Lime at the crossroads of history
When Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918, people in Velké Opatovice planted 16 Lime trees of Liberty: symbols of independence, democracy and the end of WWI. One of them was the Lime tree in Zádvoří. It was planted by a local patriot and pacifist Jan Pospíšil after he had come back home from the First World War. Only his tree has survived until today in the middle of the crossroad of five streets. Both the German and Red Army marched around the lime at the end of WWII, and the lime became a symbol of Czech freedom and resilience.
Species: Cork Oak (quercus suber)
Age: 200-230 years
Region: Ghisonaccia, Haute-Corse, FRANCE
GPS: N 42°02’10.7″, E 9°22’07.9″
The protective cork oak “Arburacellu” of Ghisonaccia
The outline of a bird of prey spreading its wings: The unusual shape of the trunk of this Corsican cork oak is thought to have been caused by a fire, as shown by its calcined heart. An element of mystery remains though: when you approach its wings, there comes a growing feeling of protection, then walk a few steps further and this fleeting feeling is gone. Does the bird-tree have magical powers? Thanks to all its protectors, this tree, though exposed to elements, should enliven the wild landscape of Ghisonaccia in Southern Corsica for a long time yet.
The Almond Tree of the Snowy Hill in Pécs
Species: Almond Tree (prunus dulcis)
Age: 135 years
Region: Pécs City, Baranya Region, HUNGARY
GPS: N 46 05.008, E 18 14.291
Symbol of eternal renewal
The almond tree in front of the the Church of Our Lady of the Snow has been delighting its visitors for 135 years. The almond blossoming has been a symbol of eternal renewal and education since Bishop Janus Pannonius wrote his poem about an almond tree in 1466. Standing on white rocks, defying the winds, this old tree was already being mentioned with love 100 years ago, and the wonderful panorama of the magical landscape and the imprint of the historical ages has astonished many more since.
Raudonė Castle Lime
Species: Small-Leaved Lime (tilia cordata mill.)
Region: Raudone Town, Jurbarkas District Municipality, LITHUANIA
GPS: N 55 05.804, E 23 07.868
Wonderful seven-trunk witness of serfdom
This small-leaved lime grows near the castle of Raudonė. There is a metal rod in between two of its trunks at a height of about 3 meters. According to legend, seven serfs were tied to the rod and beaten to death, and so the lime split into seven trunks from great pain. The trunk of the lime branches up into several trunks that split into two or more parts. The branches are like the hands of the tormented people, reaching up to 30 m height.
Species: Common Oak (quercus robur)
Age: 180 years
Region: Breda, Noord Brabant, THE NETHERLANDS
GPS: 51°32’39.2″N 4°48’52.2″E
The beloved, endangered ‘Pet-oak’
When highway A58 was constructed in 1986, numerous oaks on the Anneville Estate had to be cut down. This oak, in the centre reservation, was the only one left standing. Close to the Belgian border, it became a landmark for many drivers on their journey. The beloved oak is now threatened with felling, thanks to plans to broaden the highway which lead to widespread protests. Out of 12 nominated Dutch trees, the ‘Pet-oak’ won with an overwhelming majority.
Species: Ash-Leaved Maple (acer negundo L.)
Age: 65 years
Region: Krasnystaw, Lubelskie Province, POLAND
GPS: N 50 59.030, E 23 10.403
Kneeling tree – a symbol of determination
Several years ago, a ‘kneeling’ tree was identified for felling, as “unsightly and deformed”. This met with vocal opposition, as a result of which the tree was saved. Today, it is a popular object for photographers, a playground for children, as well as a common theme of artworks. The form of a tree falling to the ground, as if broken, then rising with its crown towards the sun symbolizes determination in pursuing a goal, as well as a hope that does not allow itself to give up.
Secular Holm Oak from Monte Barbeiro
Species: Holm Oak (quercus rotundifolia lam)
Age: 150 years
Region: Mertola Town, Region of Alentejo, PORTUGAL
GPS: N 37°44’12.2″, W 7°49’17.2″
The centenary shadow tree
The holm oak is a very resilient tree, part of a unique Mediterranean production system – the “Montado”, that sustains the economy of fragile territories and contributes to biodiversity and rural development. The best way to understand the magnificence of the Secular Holm Oak is by its large shadow. Sitting under the tree canopy makes the scorching heat in Alentejo summer almost bearable, allowing us to contemplate the vastness of the surrounding plains, breathing its peace and quietness.
The towering plane from Câmpeni
Species: Plane Tree (platanus hibrida)
Age: 200 years
Region: Câmpeni City, Alba County, ROMANIA
GPS: 46°21’46.1″N 23°02’45.6″E
The towering plane from Câmpeni
The plane tree from Câmpeni, in the Apuseni Mountains, has an incredible story. At the beginning of 2018, at the initiative of the local authorities, it was marked for felling. The community united around the tree and fought to save it, turning it into a symbol of love for nature and of unity for the community in the Apuseni Mountains, but also for all Romania. In honor of the centenary of Romania,the tree was awarded the title “Romanian Tree of the Year”.
The Abramtsevo Oak
Species: English Oak (quercus robur l)
Age: 248 years
Region: Abramtsevo Selo, Sergeev-Posadskii Districk, Moscow Region, RUSSIAN FEDERATION
GPS: N 56°14’00.1″, E 37°58’00.1″
The Abramtsevo Oak gives inspiration to painters and poets
The mighty oak grows in the reserved area of the Abramtsevo State Museum of History, Art and Literature in the Moscow Region. It is 248 years old. Within its lifetime the tree has seen many outstanding Russian people of art – painters, poets, actors. Gogol, Turgenev, Repin, Vasnetsov, Levitan, Surikov and Polenov walked under its large spreading crown. One of the most famous works by V.M. Vasnetsov “Oak Grove in Abramtsevo”, painted in 1883, is still housed at the Tretyakov State Gallery.
The Guardian of Great Moravia’s secrets
Species: Large-Leaved Lime (tilia platophyllos)
Age: 235 years
Region: Kopcany, Skilica District, SLOVAK REPUBLIC
GPS: N 48 47.772, E 17 06.523
The Lime guarding secrets
On the edge of the village of Kopčany, in a quiet meadow, there is an old lime and an old church. They protect each other and have resisted the weather for more than two hundred years. The church is from the 9th – 10th century, and is one of the oldest buildings of the Great Moravian period of Slovakia. They create a typical sacred couple for our country – the lime with its roots protects the forgotten stories of the ancestors from the Great Moravian Empire and completes the unspoken atmosphere of this archaeologically and culturally significant place.
Elm of Navajas
Species: Elm (ulmus minor)
Age: 382 years
Region: Navajas, Castellon, SPAIN
GPS: N 39°52’40.2″, W 0°30’25.7″
A very loved elm
This Elm is one of the greatest sources of historical pride in Navajas, a small town of 750 inhabitants, where they have always professed a great love and respect for trees. On the plaque that recalls its origin reads “This elm was planted by Roque Pastor in the year 1636”. Its 382 years of life make it unique in Europe. On its 350th birthday the inhabitants made a hymn to the elm tree, a program of events throughout the year and elm cuttings were distributed everywhere, even in Germany.
Species: Beech (fagus syvatica)
Age: 100 years
Region: Leeds, Yorkshire, England, UK
GPS: N 53°48’35.8″, W 1°22’14.6″
The most romantic tree in England
Nearly 100 years ago, Vic Stead would walk to the nearby village to visit Nellie, the young lady he was courting. One day, he came across three beech saplings on his route, and grafted one sapling between the other two to form the letter N, in an attempt to woo his sweetheart. Vic and Nellie would go on to marry and have a family, and although they are both gone now, Nellie’s tree, also known as the Love Tree, still remains. It is still popular with lovers today and is the site of proposals.
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Goodness! We tried selecting an official town flower and an official town tree. My only requirements were that it must either be native, or of cultural significance. That SO did not work. People were nominating the weirdest and most rare trees that they saw while on vacation in the most obscure of places . . . anything but a native species or a species of cultural significance.
The bird tree to Ghisonaccia in Corsica