Ancient and huge trees
If left in peace, many species of pine trees (Pinus) are able to grow very old and gnarled. One day, in late April 1992, I was on a mountain peak in Inyo National Forest, White Mountains, eastern California. In front of me were the most remarkable trees I have ever seen. At a distance, they appeared completely dead, with twisted, naked branches, stretching from a yellowish trunk towards the blue sky. But then – at closer quarters I noticed a narrow strip of bark on the side of the trunk, which pointed away from the direction of the prevailing wind. This strip of bark was leading up to one or two branches, densely covered in green needles, and from the tip of these branches, small cones were hanging down, their scales equipped with bristle-like appendages. These peculiar trees were Great Basin bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva) – the oldest living organisms on Earth (apart from certain clones), a few of them being almost 5,000 years old. – Below is a collection of photos of remarkable old pine trees that I have encountered at various places around the world.
Ancient Great Basin bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva), Inyo National Forest, White Mountains, eastern California. Some of these trees are the oldest living organisms on Earth (apart from certain clones), a few of them being almost 5,000 years old. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Turkish pine (Pinus brutia) is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, north to Bulgaria, south to Israel and Jordan, and east to the Caucasus and northern Iraq. These old, gnarled specimens were photographed at the Tuzlabeli Pass (1440 m), south-western Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An ancient Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), which has finally succumbed to old age, Byrums Sandfelt, Öland, Sweden. This species has an enormous distribution, found from Spain and Scotland, east across Europe and Siberia to north-eastern China, and south to Turkey, the Caucasus, and Mongolia. In Scandinavia, it is found north to the Porsanger Fjord, Norway, making it the northernmost pine species in the world. In 2014, the Scots pine was elected the national tree of Scotland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These c. 35-metre-high Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), growing in Böda Kronoskog, Öland, Sweden, are called Mastträd (‘The Mast Trees’) – a suitable name for these majestic trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is a montane species, occurring from the Californian mountain ranges and the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, north to British Columbia. This old, gnarled specimen is growing on the crater rim in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Wizard Island is seen in the background. Crater Lake evolved in the caldera of a collapsed ancient volcano, called Mount Mazama. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tapping resin from the trunk of an old chir, or long-leaved, pine (Pinus roxburghii), Sairopa, Himachal Pradesh, India. – Read more about this species on this website, see Traditional medicine: Pinus roxburghii. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The bishop pine (Pinus muricata) is a coastal species, found at a few localities in California, and two places in Baja California, Mexico. This old specimen was photographed in Jughandle State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The mountain pine (Pinus mugo) is native to southern Europe, from the Pyrenees across the Alps to the Carpathians, and south to the Apennines in Italy, and to higher mountains of the Balkans. It is also called creeping pine due to its often low and creeping habit at higher altitudes. In sand dunes along the Danish west coast, it has been widely planted to stabilize sand dunes, and has become widely naturalized there. – This picture shows an old mountain pine in Rosanintal, Austria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This Khmer sculpture, depicting a Hindu apsara (‘heavenly nymph’, or ‘daughter of joy’), a female court dancer and prostitute, has been almost completely enveloped by a huge tree. – Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which in the wild is found only in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, is the heaviest living being on the planet, the largest ones having an estimated weight of c. 1,200 tons. People appear like dwarves, when they stand next to these huge trees. Due to their thick, spongy bark, giant sequoias can withstand forest fires (4th picture). The root net of a giant sequoia which, in the 1930s, was dubbed ‘Auto Log’, because its trunk was levelled, making it possible for cars to drive on it (2nd from below). At about the same time, a road was cut through the trunk of this giant sequoia in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park (bottom). Today, fortunately, this type of vandalism is strictly prohibited. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This gnarled Taiwan acacia (Acacia confusa) in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, has toppled, but is still growing vigorously. This and other acacia species are presented elsewhere on this website, see: In praise of the colour yellow. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The magnificent plane trees, of the genus Platanus, constitute a family of their own, Platanaceae. Eight of the ten living species are indigenous to North America, one is found in Laos and Vietnam, while the tenth species, the oriental plane tree (Platanus orientalis), is distributed from the Balkans and Turkey south to Jordan, but may be a native as far west as Italy, and as far east as Kashmir in northern India. As it is widely cultivated, it is often difficult to decide, whether a population is indigenous or not.
The generic name Platanus is from the Greek platanos, which was the ancient name of maple trees (Acer). It refers to the maple-like leaves of the oriental plane tree. Some North American species are called sycamores, likewise referring to the leaves, which resemble those of the European sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus).
The London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia), which is widely planted in North European cities, is a hybrid between the oriental plane tree and the North American occidental plane tree (P. occidentalis). Some authorities claim that this hybrid arose in Spain in the 1600s, where the two mother species were planted side by side. Others point to the Royal Tradescant Arboretum, southern London, where John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662) was a gardener. P. occidentalis as well as P. orientalis are mentioned from this arboretum, so the hybrid possibly arose here, as indicated by the name London plane.
An old, partly burned oriental plane tree (Platanus orientalis), growing outside the Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı), Istanbul, Turkey. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This oriental plane tree, growing near the village of Pahalgam, Kashmir, India, displays brilliant autumn foliage. The slender trees with yellow foliage are poplars (Populus). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Metro train, passing a huge oriental plane tree in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An old Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii), photographed in the Catalina Mountains, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia) is widely planted in northern Europe. This beautiful row grows near Gjorslev Estate, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
On the Gråbrødre Square in central Copenhagen, a London plane tree was planted in 1907. Today, it is a large, beautiful tree with an enormous crown. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Plane fruits are very characteristic, with numerous nutlets forming balls, which hang on long stalks, 2 to 4 together. The nutlets are surrounded by stiff hairs, which assist in spreading the seeds with the wind. – This picture from Manisa, western Turkey, shows fruits of oriental plane. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Taiwan, or Kawakami, fir (Abies kawakamii) is restricted to the highest mountain tops of Taiwan, between 2,400 and 3,800 metres altitude. This species is declining, as its subpopulations are fragmented, fire being the main threat. These trees, photographed at c. 3,000 metres altitude on Hohuan Shan, are stunted from fierce winds and frost, and the one to the right has already succumbed. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ancient, gnarled cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) is native to southern Japan, South Korea, south-eastern China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and is widely cultivated elsewhere for production of camphor, which is used as a component of incense, as a spice, as medicine, and as an insect repellent. The largest known camphor tree is in Japan, the Kamō no Ōkusu (‘Great camphor of Kamō), which has a circumference of 24.2 metres. The large camphor tree in these pictures grows in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa, or Hesperocyparis macrocarpa) is native to central California, formerly growing only on two small locations, Point Lobos State Park and Pebble Beach, both in Monterey County, south of San Francisco. Today, however, it has been planted in many other areas along the Pacific Coast, and also in Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa. Both of these ancient trees were photographed in Point Lobos State Park. In the lower picture, the trunk is covered in an orange alga, Trentepohlia aurea. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common baobab (Adansonia digitata) is the most widespread among the nine species in this genus, of which six are native to Madagascar, two to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and one to Australia. This majestic tree often dominates large areas of savanna in sub-Saharan Africa. Common names of this species include dead-rat tree (from the sausage-like fruit, hanging in a long stalk – the rat’s tail), monkey-bread tree (the fruit is edible), and upside-down tree (the sparse branches resemble roots). The name baobab is derived from the Arabic būħibāb, meaning ‘the father of many seeds’. The generic name Adansonia refers to French botanist and explorer Michel Adanson (1727-1806), who was the first European to observe the species during an expedition to Senegal.
Rainbow behind giant baobabs (Adansonia digitata), Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This picture, also from Tarangire National Park, depicts a hollow baobab, partly destroyed by elephants (Loxodonta africana), which have eaten much of the bark, peeling it off with their tusks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The root net of a toppled conifer, photographed with a very wide-angled lens, Stora Sjöfallet National Park, Lapland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Figs (Ficus) are a genus of about 850 species of trees, vines, or epiphytes, belonging to the mulberry family (Moraceae). They are native throughout the tropics and subtropics, with a few species extending into warmer parts of the northern temperate zone.
This 250-year-old banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) in Kolkata Botanical Garden, West Bengal, India, has grown to enormous dimensions, sprouting numerous aerial roots from its branches, which grew down to the ground, where they took root, over the years becoming additional trunks, creating an entire patch of ‘forest’, which is in reality only a single tree. The central trunk (the mother tree) was removed in 1925 because of rot. When this picture was taken in 1994, there were c. 1,825 stilt roots, with a total circumference of c. 420 metres and a height of c. 25 m. – More about banyan is presented elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is native to the Indian Subcontinent, east to southern China and Taiwan, south through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to northern Australia, thence east to some of the Pacific islands. When small, it is a very popular house plant, but in the wild it grows to enormous dimensions, with numerous aerial roots. This gigantic tree (top) grows in the ‘Monkey Forest’ near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. The lower picture shows another huge weeping fig with numerous aerial roots, called the ‘Thousand-root banyan’, found in Jhiben National Forest Recreation Area, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The dye fig (Ficus tinctoria), also called humped fig, belongs to a group of fig trees, called strangler figs. Most seeds of these trees begin their life as an epiphyte in a tree, the seed often sprouting in a pile of bird dung, delivered by the bird which ate the fig fruit. Over the years, aerial roots of the young strangler fig grow down to the ground, where they take root, while other roots wrap themselves around the host tree, over time completely enveloping the tree, which is eventually strangled to death. As the trunk of the host tree decays, it leaves the fig tree as a hollow cylinder of aerial roots. These pictures show the subspecies gibbosa, photographed among the Khmer ruins at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The upper picture shows the gnarled base of the trunk of a dye fig, which is strangling a silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba). Dye fig also readily grows on buildings, as shown in the lower photograph, where a huge specimen is embracing a ruin at Ta Prohm. This species has more or less the same distribution as the weeping fig. Its name stems from the traditional usage of its fruits to produce a dye. The specific name tinctoria is Latin, meaning ‘used for dyeing’. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Large-leaved fig (Ficus superba) is another strangler fig, which also readily grows on buildings, as shown in the upper photograph, where aerial roots of a giant large-leaved fig have enveloped the remains of the former warehouse of Tait & Co., Anping, Taiwan. Today, the building is called Anping Tree House. However, large-leaved fig is also able to thrive as a normal tree, as this ancient specimen (bottom), growing in a park at the ‘Temple of the Five Concubines’, a Daoist temple from 1683 in the city of Tainan, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pipal, or sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), is yet another strangler fig, which also often grows on buildings, as shown in this photograph from Kathmandu, Nepal, where its roots are causing a small Hindu temple to crack. Over the years, it will destroy the building completely. – More about pipal is found elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Many hollow trees were worshipped far into the Middle Ages. These pictures show two such trees – two ancient common oaks (Quercus robur) north of Copenhagen, Denmark. Skovfogedegen (‘Forest Ranger’s Oak’) is one of Denmark’s largest trees, with a circumference of 10.3 metres (two upper pictures). It was named after forest ranger Johan Georg Weissler, who, in the early 1800s, arranged his own private oratory inside its hollow trunk. The bottom picture shows another ancient oak, Ulvedalsegen (‘Wolf Valley Oak’), also called ‘The Theatre Oak’, which is slightly larger than the Forest Ranger’s Oak, with a circumference of 10.4 metres. The name ‘The Theatre Oak’ stems from an old tradition of performing plays in front of the old tree. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These pictures present three other ancient common oaks in Denmark and Sweden. The upper picture shows The Boller Oak, about 800 years old, at the Boller Estate, near Horsens, Denmark, while the two centre pictures show a dead oak in Halltorps Hage, Öland, Sweden, its trunk covered in feeding tunnels of larvae of the great capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo). Formerly, this forest was home to about a thousand ancient oaks, but unfortunately most of these have been felled, and out of the remaining 30 or so, most are not doing too well. In the bottom picture, Lars Skipper is standing next to an old oak on the island of Almö, Blekinge, Sweden. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ancient common alder (Alnus glutinosa), growing at the shore of Lake Mossø, Jutland, Denmark. Alder trees live in symbiosis with a nitrogen-fixing actinomycete bacterium, Frankia alni. These bacteria cause the growth of coral-like nodules on the roots of the trees, inside which thick-walled cells are formed, housing the bacteria. Protected here against the harmful oxygen of the air, the bacteria change nitrogen into nitrates, which can be utilized by the alder trees. This is the reason that these trees are able to grow in oxygen-poor soils. The nitrates enrich the soil, making it possible for other plants to grow in these poor soils. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This ancient Norway maple (Acer platanoides) grows in a park in the centre of the Old Town, Ystad, Skåne, Sweden. This species is native to Europe, found from southern Scandinavia south to the Pyrenees, Italy, and the Balkans, east to Ukraine, and thence south to the Caucasus and Turkey. Norway maple has been introduced to North America, where it has become invasive in many eastern states. For this reason, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have banned planting of this tree. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Canadian poplar (Populus x canadensis) is a hybrid between black poplar (Populus nigra), which is native to Europe, south-western and central Asia, and North Africa, and eastern cottonwood, or necklace poplar (Populus deltoides), which is native to the United States, south-eastern Canada, and north-eastern Mexico. This hybrid is very commonly planted around the world, often along roads, such as these pruned specimens on the island of Langeland, Denmark (top), or these, illuminated by the morning sun on the island of Lyø, Denmark (centre). The one in front resembles a gaping monster. The bottom picture shows the bark of an old Canadian poplar, Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Grand forests of pehuén, or Chilean monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), are ubiquitous in Parque Nacional Conguillio, and a few other places in the Andes. Elsewhere, the species is endangered. In the lower picture, Lars Skipper is standing next to a giant pehuén, called ‘Araucaria Madre’ (‘Mother of Monkey-puzzle Trees’), which is about 1,800 years old, 50 metres tall, and has a diameter of c. 2.1 metres. – Read more about pehuén – and of other wildlife in the Chilean Andes – on this website, see Travel episodes: Chile 2011 – The white forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lars Skipper, admiring an ancient sessile oak (Quercus petraea), Lake Almind, Silkeborg, Denmark. This species is mainly European, found from southern Scandinavia and the British Isles, south to Portugal, and east to Poland and the Balkans, with isolated populations in Turkey, the Caucasus, and northern Iran. It can be told from the common oak (Q. robur) by its darker, shiny, less indented leaves. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These pictures of Himalayan cedar, or deodar (Cedrus deodara), are all from Himachal Pradesh, northern India. This species can grow to huge dimensions, up to 80 metres tall, as this gigantic tree, growing near the Hadimba Temple, a Hindu shrine in Manali (top). The centre picture shows other old cedars around this temple. – Once during its lifetime, this old deodar (bottom picture), growing in the Tirthan Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, was probably on the verge of sliding into the abyss. However, it managed to cling to the precipice, several of its trunks becoming partly horizontal. – Read more about the Hadimba Temple on this website, see Religion: Hinduism. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Welwitschia mirabilis is the sole surviving representative of an ancient family of cone-bearing plants, distantly related to conifers. This species is confined to the Namib Desert in western Namibia. In fact, Welwitschia is a tree, but most of it is underground, the roots obtaining water 20 metres or more below the desert surface. This specimen, which was photographed near Swakopmund, is about 1,500 years old. – Read more about Welwitschia – and about Namibia in general – on this website, see Countries and places: Namibia – a desert country. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tetrameles nudiflora is a huge rainforest tree, growing to 45 metres high, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent via Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia to northern Australia. Many of the Khmer ruins at Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, have been enveloped by the roots of giant specimens of this species. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common lime (Tilia x europaea), in America called common linden, is a hybrid between small-leaved lime (T. cordata) and large-leaved lime (T. platyphyllos). In Europe, it occurs in the wild here and there, where the two parent species are present. It is very widely cultivated, being the commonest lime species in urban areas, despite the fact that it is host to vast populations of aphids, which produce huge amounts of honeydew, leaving a sticky layer on parked cars, and everything else, beneath the trees. It is a very popular tree among bee-keepers, as its flowers produce an esteemed type of honey.
Common lime can grow very old and very large, up to 50 metres tall. One long-lived specimen was the ’Malmvik lime’, planted as a sapling near the Malmvik Manor, Stockholm, Sweden, in 1618. This tree lived for 381 years, until its remains fell during a storm in 1999. (Source: R. Bengtsson, 2004. The Malmvik Lime: An Historical and Biological Analysis of the Oldest Documented Planting of Common Lime (Tilia x europaea L.) in Sweden. The Garden History Society. 32 (2):188-196). The largest common lime in Britain is at Aysgarth, Yorkshire, which, in 2009, was 26 metres tall, with a diameter of 2,95 metres. (Source: O. Johnson, 2011. Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London).
Old and gnarled common lime trees (Tilia x europaea), Jægerspris, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bronze Age burial mound at Gisselfeldt, Zealand, Denmark, overgrown by large common lime trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Two species of false cypresses, of the genus Chamaecyparis, are native to Taiwan, the Taiwan red cypress (C. formosensis) and the Taiwan yellow cypress (C. obtusa var. formosana), both growing in areas of high precipitation at medium elevations, between 1,300 and 2,600 metres altitude.
Following the Sino-Japanese war of 1894, Taiwan was ceded to Japan and became a Japanese colony. In 1912, the Japanese government began large-scale logging of false cypresses in the Alishan area, and where the Alishan Mountain Railway today passes through areas at higher elevations, cypress forests once covered the entire landscape. Soon, the forests on Taiping Shan, Ilan County, and Pahsien Shan, Nantou County, were also opened up for logging, and later also many other areas. An endless stream of cypress logs flowed out of the mountains, carried across the sea to Japan to become e.g. pillars for Shinto shrines.
Early surveys estimated that, before logging began, about 20 million ancient false cypresses were found in Taiwan. Of the approximately 300,000 false cypresses at Alishan, which were more than 1,000 years old, all that remains today is a few giant trees, scattered among introduced Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica).
Large-scale logging of these magnificent trees was continued, even after the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945 – in fact, right up to 1989. Today, the only larger areas of ancient false cypresses are forests on Hsiukulan Shan, central Taiwan, and on Chilan Shan, Ilan County. (Source: Chang Chin-ju, Ancient Giants of the Forest – Taiwan’s False Cypresses).
These four pictures show Taiwan red cypresses (Chamaecyparis formosana) in Alishan National Recreation Area, central Taiwan. – A giant, about 1,900 years old (top). Close-up of a tree, c. 1,000 years old (second from above). This ancient tree is called ‘Third Generation Tree’, because a younger cypress has rooted on its stump (second from below). I was not able to find the third generation! – The lower part of the trunk of this old cypress resembles a kneeling elephant (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lower part of the trunk of an ancient red cypress, Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Two red cypresses in Yushan National Park, which have been named the ‘Fuci Trees’, were killed by a forest fire in 1963, but the dried-out trunks have remained. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A trail in Alishan National Recreation Area has been worn by so many feet of visitors that the roots of a red cypress has appeared on the surface. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Taiwan yellow cypresses (Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosana), 600-700 years old, Mingchih Forest Recreation Area, northern Taiwan. The lower picture shows a close-up of the bark, with a climber. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Mendocino cypress, growing only in the Mendocino area north of San Francisco, California, is sometimes treated as a separate species, called either Cupressus pigmaea or Hesperocyparis pygmaea. Others maintain that it is a variety, pigmaea, of the more widespread Gowen cypress (Cupressus goveniana, or Hesperocyparis goveniana). Under all circumstances, not much is pygmy-like about this tree, as it may be able to grow to 43 metres tall, with a diameter exceeding 2 metres. – This picture shows the trunk of an old Mendocino cypress, illuminated by the evening sun, at Laguna Point, Mackerricher State Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is largely restricted to Europe, occurring from England and the Pyrenees, east to Poland and Ukraine, and from southern Sweden south to Italy and the Balkans, with a patchy occurrence in southern Norway, central Spain, and Turkey. In the Balkans, it hybridizes with the oriental beech (F. orientalis), which is found in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Alborz Mountains in northern Iran. European beeches can grow very large, up to 50 metres tall, with a trunk diameter of up to 3 metres. These pictures show various types of old beeches.
This old, gnarled beech (Fagus sylvatica) from Jutland, Denmark, has several trunks, probably after being pruned many years prior. Numerous tinder polypores (Fomes fomentarius) grow on the trunks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fog envelops an old, mis-shaped beech in Triglavski National Park, Slovenia. The stump to the right resembles some long-horned animal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ancient, dying beeches, growing near St. Martin, in the Spanish Pyrenees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An aberrant form of beech from Jutland, Denmark, its branches bending down and growing along the ground. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These white trunks of dead Taiwan hemlocks (Tsuga chinensis var. formosana) contrast sharply with the lush, green forest on the slopes of Yu Shan (3997 m), the highest mountain in Taiwan. This variety of the Chinese hemlock is quite common in mixed broad-leaved forests in montane areas of Taiwan, at altitudes between 1,700 and 3,500 metres. Some authorities question the validity of this variety, claiming that it is identical with the type, T. c. var. chinensis. The Chinese hemlock, in its wider sense, is found from Tibet east to China and Taiwan, south to northern Vietnam. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The black juniper (Juniperus indica) is a high-altitude Himalayan tree, growing between 2,100 and 5,200 metres, from Pakistan east to south-eastern Tibet and south-western China. Its foliage is burned as incense in Hindu and Buddhist shrines, and the fruit is utilized in traditional medicine for fever and headache. This old and gnarled tree was found at an altitude of c. 3,600 metres in the Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), which belongs to the cypress family (Cupressaceae), is native to eastern Canada and north-eastern United States, but is widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental. This huge, multi-trunked specimen is growing in a park on the island of Lolland, Denmark. Note the woman, peeping out behind one of the trunks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An old coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi) – a species of southern beech – attacked by fungi, Parque Nacional Conguillio, Chile. – Read more about coigüe – and of other wildlife in the Chilean Andes – on this website, see Travel episodes: Chile 2011 – The white forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Olive trees (Olea europaea) can live for more than 2000 years. Some specimens in the Gethsemane Garden, beneath the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, were young trees, when Jesus wandered in this area. These pictures show two ancient specimens, above from the Lassithi Plains, Crete, below a split and pruned individual in the town of Mordogan, Karaburun Peninsula, near Izmir, Turkey. – Read more about this species on this website, see Traditional medicine – Olea europaea. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This Lunta spruce (Cunninghamia konishii) in Taroko National Park, Taiwan, called ‘Pilu Sacred Tree’, is c. 3,200 years old and 40-50 metres high. It is named after a mountain, Luan Ta, where it was first found in 1908. The occurrence of Lunta spruce in the wild is confined to Taiwan, a few locations in Laos and Vietnam, and perhaps the Fujian Province of south-eastern China. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2017, this species is endangered in the wild. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Two knots on the trunk of this old cherry tree (Prunus avium), and a wound in the bark beneath them, cause the trunk to resemble a large-eyed alien. – Read more about this species on this website, see Traditional medicine – Prunus avium. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This 750-year-old Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) has taken root in a narrow canyon on the Navaho Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, United States. This conifer is native to western North America, with two varieties, one coastal, growing from British Columbia south to central California, and one montane, found in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia south to Mexico. Today, however, it is cultivated almost worldwide for its excellent timber. It is named after David Douglas (1799-1834), a Scottish botanist and collector, who first reported it. – A picture of an unripe cone of this species is found elsewhere on this website, see Nature: Nature’s patterns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Worship of trees takes place around the world. This picture shows a growth of old drooping junipers (Juniperus recurva) near the Pangboche Monastery, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. These trees are sacred to the local Tibetan Buddhists – a remnant of the animist Bon religion, which dominated in Central Asia, prior to the introduction of Buddhism. – Read more about animism on this website, see Religion: Animism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The goat willow (Salix caprea) is a smallish tree, native to all of Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. These pictures show the decaying process of an old goat willow, which grew in Nature Reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. When this tree was about 50 years old, its several trunks had broken apart, lying on the ground (top). However, it was still growing vigorously. The same willow, 22 years later, had finally succumbed, its trunks overgrown by mosses (centre). 36 years after the first photo, only a few scattered bits of rotten trunks remain (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Forest of coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Humboldt Redwood State Park, California, United States. This species is the tallest tree in the world, the record being no less than 112 metres. On the bottom picture, I am standing at a fallen, partly decayed trunk, which gives a clear impression of the height of these magnificent trees. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Muktinath Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, is situated in a growth of old Himalayan poplars (Populus ciliata) in the Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. – Read more about the Muktinath Temple – and about Hinduism in general – on this website, see Religion: Hinduism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The trunk of an old sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), Nature Reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. – Read more about the development of growths of these trees on abandoned fields in this nature reserve on this website, see Vorsø on my mind: Expanding wilderness. About the species in general, see Nature: Invasive species. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fungi, growing on the trunk of a burned forest tree, Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Chinese Hemlock Nature Trail leads through montane monsoon forest in Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area, eastern Taiwan. Here, the trail is passing beneath the roots of an ancient tree. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cyclist, passing by the gnarled trunk of an ancient tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica), Bagan, Myanmar. This tree of the pea family (Fabaceae) is indigenous to Tropical Africa, but is widely cultivated elsewhere in hot countries for its fruits, whose pulp is used in cuisines around the world. It is also used in folk medicine, and to polish metal. In many Latin-speaking countries, a beverage, called tamarindo, is made from the pulp. The name tamarind is from Arabic تمر هندي (tamar hindi), meaning ‘Indian date’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The trunk of an ancient European yew (Taxus baccata), Glendalough, Ireland. To the right, still clinging to the trunk, is a withered ivy (Hedera helix). European yew is native to Europe, North Africa, south-western Asia, and northern Iran. In the Himalaya, it is replaced by a close relative, the Himalayan yew (T. wallichiana), which was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the European yew. Yew cones are highly modified, each cone containing only one seed, surrounded by a bright red, fleshy, berry-like aril, which is edible. The seed, however, is very poisonous. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Terminalia mantaly, of the leadwood family (Combretaceae), is a native of Madagascar, but is widely cultivated in warmer countries around the world. In Taiwan, it is very commonly planted in cities. This one, in the city of Taichung, was planted in a square bed, which proved too small, and as it grew larger, its roots spread onto the sidewalk. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
After a forest fire, two tall stumps are all that remains of a huge Himalayan hemlock (Tsuga dumosa), near Tharepati, Langtang National Park, Nepal. This tree, growing to 40 metres tall, is very common in the Himalaya, found at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,600 metres, from Uttarakhand in the west, eastwards to northern Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, with an isolated population in northern Vietnam. Its timber is used for construction, furniture, and foot-bridges, and its needles are burned as incense in Hindu and Buddhist shrines. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Indian holly oak (Quercus floribunda, formerly Q. dilatata) is distributed from Afghanistan east to central Nepal, growing at altitudes between 1,800 and 2,700 metres. This large specimen from the Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand, is a so-called ‘money tree’. Coins are hammered into its bark as an offering, hoping for good luck. This practice is a remnant of animism, which dominated as a religion in India prior to the emergence of Hinduism and Buddhism. – Read more about animism on this website, see Religion: Animism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani) is native to the eastern Mediterranean, found in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. This tree is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Moses told Hebrew priests to use the bark of this tree to cure leprosy (Leviticus 14:1-4). – Hebrew prophet Isaiah used the Lebanon cedar as a metaphor for the haughty pride of humans (Isaiah 2:13). – King Solomon ordered the Temple of Jerusalem to be built of cedar timber. (Source: ourladyoflebanon-dc.org/histcedars.html). – And, finally, the Song of Solomon, 5:15, “His legs are like marble pillars, set in sockets of finest gold. His posture is stately, like the noble cedars of Mount Lebanon.”
Ancient Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani), near Ermenek, Toros Dağlari (Taurus Mountains), Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The sacred temple of the Sikhs, Hari Mandir – often called ‘The Golden Temple’ – is situated in Amritsar, Punjab, north-western India. On the temple premises grows this jujube tree (Ziziphus mauritiana), which is about 475 years old. Supposedly, it possesses healing powers, and women, who wish to give birth to a son, attach bits of cloth to its bark as an offering. – You may read more about the Hari Mandir on this website, see Travel episodes – India 1997: Golden Temple of the Sikhs. – More about the jujube tree is found at Traditional medicine: Ziziphus mauritiana. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded June 2016)