The Quick 10: 10 Famous Trees

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.

PROMETHEUS1. Prometheus is the poor tree who was cut down before his time 45 years ago (that's his stump to the left). Donald R. Currey, a grad student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was studying the climate during the Little Ice Age by tree-ring dating (AKA dendrochronology). He had been studying trees on Wheeler Peak in Nevada when he came across Prometheus. Although he was able to used a corer to take samples from some of the older trees in the area, Prometheus resisted - Currey broke at least two corers trying to obtain a sample. So he asked the U.S. Forest Service's permission to cut it down for scientific purposes, and they agreed. It was only after the tree was cut that its age was discovered - at least 4,862 years old with a great possibility of it being more than 5,000 years old. A couple of years later, when word got out that Prometheus had been cut down, a lot of people were outraged that the Forest Service treated such an old tree so cavalierly. Others argued that cutting it down gave scientists wonderful research that resulted in the protection of other similar trees in the area. Either way, the ruckus caused by Prometheus' felling resulted in a witness protection program of sorts for other old trees...

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.

tenere3. Like Prometheus, Tree of Ténéré met its end a few decades ago. But before then, it was known as the most isolated tree on Earth. The lone acacia tree was a landmark in the Ténéré region of the Sahara desert; no other tree existed for more than 120 miles. A whole group of trees used to grow in the same location but by the 1930s, the Tree of Ténéré was the lone survivor. It was knocked down in 1973, supposedly by a drunk truck driver. It was immediately taken to a museum and a metal sculpture was erected in its place. You can see a nice photographic timeline of the Tree of Ténéré here.

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.

SONOFTREE6. and 7. Tree That Owns Itself and Son of Tree That Owns Itself. As a purveyor of weirdo roadside attractions ( is fabulous), I had an eye on this particular tree when I roadtripped to Florida in April. It didn't end up making the list of places I was allowed to stop at (my traveling companions limited me, otherwise it would have taken us a week to drive down there), so I'm glad I get to learn the story now. It goes like this: sometime between 1820 and 1832, a man who cherished the memories this tree gave him throughout his lifetime decided that he wanted to protect it from anything that might harm it in the future. So, naturally, he gave it ownership of itself - AND of an eight-foot circumference all around it. A local newspaper ran the deed in 1890:

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."

jaya10. The Sri Maha Bodhi tree, a Sacred Fig, is supposed to be the very spot where Gautama Buddha, the Supreme Buddha, found enlightenment. After he found enlightenment, Gautama Buddha stood for a week in front of the tree, staring at it with gratitude. Like the Glastonbury Thorn, lots of trees have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree, and several of them are now the center of worship themselves. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, was planted from the Sri Maha Bodhi in 288 B.C., and is the oldest-living human-planted tree in existence.

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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10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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