Trees, some of them thousands of years old, have majestically stood on the face of the Earth, silently witnessing the evolution of human civilization. These trees are living testaments to our pasts, and magnificent markers of history.
With their unusual shapes, enchanting legends, and historical significance, they have become more than just giant trunks. Here are ten such trees whose wooden hearts have amazing stories to tell.
10. The Tree That Houses a Pub
What could be more enticing than a pub located in the hollow of a tree? Sunland Baobab, a 6000-year-old tree from South Africa, not only has a bar built within its trunk, but also boasts a wine cellar within it. The tree has two hollow trunks which are connected by a narrow passage, making it spacious enough to house up to 15 people at a time.
The giant tree is around 47 meters in diameter and has a completely hollowed out trunk, thanks to numerous natural fires that had sprung up within it.
The unique bar was first opened in 1933 and has 13-foot high ceilings. Currently, the tree is in a private area owned by Van Heerden family, and is open to anybody who would like to a drink in the serenity of its trunk.
9. Prison Trees
The huge 1500-year-old Boab tree in the city of Derby, West Australia looks quite glorious in its natural surroundings. The tree indeed resembles an old dungeon, and has a scary ambiance around it. The history of this tree is in league with its spooky looks. It is rumored to have been used to temporarily lock up indigenous Australian prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing.
The Boab tree of Derby has a close cousin in Wyndham, West Australia, yet another hollow Boab tree that was used as a prison. The local police had reportedly used this tree to lock up Aboriginal prisoners on their way to Wyndham for sentencing.
The idea of people being crammed in a tree sounds scary, and the very savageness in the act could be the reason why these trees are popular centers of tourist attractions.
8. The Resurrected Tree
An exotic species of date palms, known as Judean date, has been chronicled in many ancient texts, including the Bible and the Quran, for its miraculous medicinal powers. Judean date was used in the ancient times to cure several deadly diseases, including cancer and TB. For several thousand years, it was the staple crop of the Kingdom of Judea. The extreme value of the plant is believed to have led to excessive demand for the same. This subsequently resulted in the species going extinct.
In the 1960s, an archaeologist named Yigael Yadin began excavating Masada, a fortress built over 2,000 years ago on the shore of the Dead Sea. During these digs, a pile of Judean date seeds were found stashed away in a clay jar. The carbon dating of the seeds revealed that they were contemporary with the fortress. The scientists of Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem were quite excited about the find, and initiated a project to germinate the seeds. They later turned over the mission to plant specialist Elaine Solowey at the Arava Institute of the Environment in Kibbutz Ketura, Israel.
The seeds were pre-treated with fertilizers and hormone-rich solutions, and were then planted. But only one of them germinated.
The wonder plant that grew out of the fossil seed was named Methuselah, after the oldest person in the Bible. The plant reportedly blossomed its first flowers in 2011, and thrives under the delicate care of the plant experts. The tree has been growing steadily ever since, and is expected to bear fruit by 2022.
7. The Tree With Two Chapels
The Chêne chapelle, a grand oak tree in the small French village of Allouville-Bellefosse, looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The tree sprouts a roof at its top, and has a spiral staircase wrapped around its trunk. It houses not one, but two small chapels, which are used by local people as place of worship even today. The old oak is believed to have reigned the place for more than 800 years and has a magical miraculous history.
In the 1600s, when the tree was at least 500 years old, a bolt of lightning struck its mighty trunk. Instead of just dying like a normal tree might, something remarkable happened. The fire that sprang up as the result of the lightning burned within the tree and hollowed it out. In spite of a hollow inside, the oak did not rot away or blow down; year after year, it sprouted new leaves and produced acorns in abundance.
It did not take long before the locals started associating the survival of the tree with divine intervention. A priest, Father Du Cerceau, created a theory that the entire episode had a holy purpose. So a chapel for Virgin Mary, called the Notre Dame de la Paix (Our Lady of Peace) was built within the hollow of the tree. Years later, they added a second chapel (Chambre de l’Ermite, or “Hermit’s Room”, along with a spiral staircase.
Today, the tree has started showing signs of aging, and part of its trunk is already dead. But the local people continue to keenly shower all the delicate care they can think of to keep the tree alive as long as possible.
6. The Killing Tree
The Killing Tree, popularly as the Chankiri Tree, was a silent witness to heart-shattering brutalities. The tree stands on the infamous Cambodian Killing Fields, which was the center for Cambodian Genocide during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Towards the end of their reign, the Khmer Rouge was reportedly hesitant to waste their precious bullets on the prisoners. They had retorted to the primitive ways of killing. The adult prisoners were frequently executed by savage methods like clubbing or axing. Even infants and children were not spared, and were subjected to the most inhuman cruelties.
The soldiers used to pick up the kids by their feet and bash them against this very tree until they were dead. The soldiers were instructed to not look apologetic while carrying out this sick process, and instead were asked to smile and laugh while torturing the unfortunate kids. The tree still stands tall in the Killing Fields, reminding us all of the grave injustice those kids had to go through.
5. The Sacred Mango Tree
The Ekambareswarar, a temple of Lord Shiva in the village of Kanchipuram in the state Tamil Nadu, India, is one of the five major Shiva temples, and is a very popular place of worship in South India. But the real star in this temple is a 3500-year-old mango tree that yields four different types of mangoes from four branches, in four different seasons.
Now, if you are thinking about the possibility of an artificial graft, note that the tree is thousands of years old and this phenomenon has been mentioned in the temple texts that are centuries old. The popular local legend is that the four branches of this tree represent the four Vedas, the ancient sacred texts of India. Perhaps this tree, popularly known as the Sthala-Virutcham of Ekambareswarar, is one of those rare breeds of natural grafts.
4. The Tree of Life
There is a tree in Bahrain that has earned the title Shajarat-al-Hayat, which translates to “the tree of life.” This tree stands alone in the heart of the vast desert of Bahrain, and has been thriving in that harsh climate for over 400 years. There is no another sign of vegetation for miles, and no apparent source of water in the vicinity. The fact that the tree has managed to fight against every possible adversity, be it lack of water or extreme heat, and has emerged as the sole survivor means it truly deserves the title it proudly flaunts.
Even when scientists attribute the miracle survival to long and deep running roots that might have found a distant source of water, the local inhabitants continue to believe that the tree is guarded by Enki, the mythical God of water. Yet another popular legend advocates that the tree marks the location of the Garden of Eden. Thousands of tourists flock from around the world to witness what they consider a miracle.
3. The Tree That Owned Itself
This is an extraordinary tale of a tree that not only owned itself, but also is the master of a well-maintained enclosed garden where it proudly stands. The tree, staged at the top of a steep hill in Athens, Georgia, dates back to the early 1800’s. Colonel William H. Jackson, a professor at the University of Georgia, bestowed the oak tree with the ownership of itself and land within eight feet on all sides. A marker on the foot of the tree reads as follows:
“For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection, for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides”.
George Foster Peabody, a Philanthropist, later paid to install an enclosure around the tree and the land it owned. The original tree was blown down in the 1940s, but a sapling grown from its acorns was planted in the same spot in 1946, and is the current property owner. The tree continues to enjoy a serene life on its property and attracts many visitors every year.
2. The Circus Trees
The family theme park Gilroy Gardens is the proud home to botanical wonders popularly known as the Circus Trees. These trees are the products of creative envisioning of a man named Axel Erlandson. Inspired by observing a natural graft between two trees, Erlandson soon set off on his mission of shaping trees into magnificent patterns. His initial successful venture was a “four-legged giant” shaped out by planting four trees in a square and training their tops together.
His other popular works carry equally amusing names like, “an almost circle cage”, “basket tree”, “arch tree”, “chain link”, “compound eight”, and many more. This array of artistically shaped trees definitely lives up to the charm of their quirky names.
Whenever asked about the techniques behind his miracle works, Erlandson would jovially reply that talking to them did the trick. Though it is evident that the tree-shaping art involved more than just talking, Erlandson never spilled the real secrets behind his accomplishments. Even today, no one knows for sure how he bewitched the trees and transformed them into their current shapes.
1. The Haunted Boyington Oak
A great oak tree of Mobile, Alabama has its own strange story to tell. This majestic oak got its name from Charles Boyington, a young printer who moved from Connecticut to Mobile in 1833. The young man soon earned the reputation of being a frequent gambler, jobless and looking out for some quick money.
On one warm night in May of 1834, Boyington was seen in the company of a friend, Nathaniel Frost. As per the stories, the duo was taking a stroll in the Church Street Graveyard located in the outskirts of the city. When Nathaniel was found dead in the cemetery premises the next morning, naturally Boyington became the prime suspect. The young man was arrested, declared guilty on the grounds of circumstantial evidence, and sentenced to hang. Boyington, however, maintained until the end that he was innocent. Prior to the hanging, he reportedly proclaimed that an oak tree would grow out of his heart to prove his innocence. Boyington’s body was later buried outside the walls of the cemetery in the Potter’s field.
True to his words, a big oak tree did grow out of his tombstone in the later years. Boyington’s gravestone has eroded over time, but the tree still stands high in its place, perhaps asserting the dead man’s innocence. Boyington Oak is one of the most popular haunted spots among ghost hunters, and has its own shares of myths and folklore. Some say that when the wind whistles its way through the branches of the tree, Boyington’s whispers can still be heard, proclaiming his innocence for all to hear.