A few of our favorite trees

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There are plenty of notable trees out there -- both real and fictional, historic and living -- and in honor of Arbor Day (just five weeks away!) we wanted to share a few of our favorites. Drum roll ...

Sri Maha Bodhi
Said to be a sapling from the original Bodhi Tree (under which the historical Buddha became enlightened), it was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest living tree with a known planting date. It was moved from India to Sri Lanka in the third century, where today it stands as one of the world's most sacred, fig-producing holy sites. A fence was installed around the tree in the 18th century to prevent it from being snacked upon by hungry elephants.

Arbre du Ténéré
200px-Tree_of_Tenere.jpgAlso known as the Lone Tree of Ténéré, this solitary acacia was long considered the most isolated tree on Earth. Located deep in the Nigerian Sahara, it was the only tree within 400km of 17°45'00" N, 10°04'00"³E. In 1939 a French military officer marveled "One must see the Tree to believe its existence. What is its secret? How can it still be living in spite of the multitudes of camels which trample at its sides. How at each azalai does not a lost camel eat its leaves and thorns? Why don't the numerous Touareg leading the salt caravans cut its branches to make fires to brew their tea? The only answer it that the tree is taboo and considered as such by the caravaniers." In 1973, however, a drunken truck driver slammed into it (what are the chances?), knocking over one of the region's only landmarks. It has since been replaced by a considerably less poetic-looking metal pole.

Methuselah
long_frombelow.jpgNamed after a man reputed to have lived more than 900 years, this bristlecone pine has the Biblical Methuselah beat by a longshot. Dated at 4,838 years of age, this hardy tree is thought to be the oldest living organism on Earth. It's located high in California's White Mountains, in a grove of similarly ancient bristlecones (which, until it was cut down in 1964, included a more than 5,000-year-old specimen named Prometheus). How do they survive for so long? For starters, not much else grows at 11,000 feet, so their roots have plenty of room to spread and grow to find water. Sparse ground cover means the threat of fire is significantly reduced. What's more, their incredibly dense, resinous wood is fantastically disease-resistant. To protect Methuselah against vandalism and heavy foot traffic, its exact location is a Parks Service secret; pictured is a mighty bristlecone which may or may not be the tree in question.

March 22, 2007 - 5:12am
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