I think that I shall never see a post lovely as a tree
March 21, 2007 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Previous posts on circus trees, giant sequoias, quaking aspens and bristlecone pines.
posted by homunculus at 10:34 PM on March 21, 2007

The sycomore fig tree is quite nice too.
posted by homunculus at 10:37 PM on March 21, 2007

Pando, which is Latin for "I Spread," is composed of about 47,000 stems spread throughout 107 acres of land. It estimated to weigh 6,600 tons, making it the heaviest known organism. Although the average age of the individual stems are 130 years, the entire organism is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!

posted by delmoi at 10:40 PM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nice post, homunculus.

This, hilarious and sad at the same time, is just priceless:

The Tree of Ténéré or L’Arbre du Ténéré was the world’s most isolated tree - the solitary acacia, which grew in the Sahara desert in Niger, Africa, was the only tree within more than 250 miles (400 km) around.
The tree was the last surviving member of a group of acacias that grew when the desert wasn’t as dry. When scientists dug a hole near the tree, they found its roots went down as deep as 120 feet (36 m) below to the water table!
Apparently, being the only tree in that part of the wide-open desert (remember: there wasn’t another tree for 250 miles around), wasn’t enough to stop a drunk Libyan truck driver from driving his truck into it, knocking it down and killing it!

Wikipedia has more on the tree here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:43 PM on March 21, 2007

The Pando and the Baobob, cool.
posted by toma at 10:57 PM on March 21, 2007

this is the one that got me:

in 1964, Donald R. Currey, then a graduate student, was taking core samples from a tree named Prometheus. His boring tool broke inside the tree, so he asked for permission from the US Forest Service to cut it down and examine the full cross section of the wood. Surprisingly the Forest Service agreed! When they examined the tree, Prometheus turned out to be about 5,000 years old, which would have made it the world’s oldest tree when the scientist unwittingly killed it!
posted by dinsdale at 11:12 PM on March 21, 2007

Cool post! This led me to try and look for the world's largest organism. Pando wins by volume, but there is a fungus that beats it in area. I thought I heard something about a fungus that stretched under some huge swath of China that was even bigger, but I can't find it now.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:29 PM on March 21, 2007

Fantastic. I wish most single-link FPPs were like this one.
posted by davejay at 12:03 AM on March 22, 2007

Is it more common for tall people to feel a special connection to trees or is that just me?
Great post.
posted by metaname at 12:15 AM on March 22, 2007

Trees are amazing, thanks a lot for this post.
posted by !Jim at 12:23 AM on March 22, 2007

It was really cool to realize that I've seen so many of those trees in person. The ones in Monterey always amaze me. And I was looking at the Tule Tree and trying to figure out why it looked and sounded so familiar... and then I realized that in a drawer somewhere I have a picture of my friend Michelle & I standing in front of it circa 1992. I had no real idea the tree was that famous or unique until just now.

BTW, I think the Tree Circus in Santa Cruz is now called Gilroy Gardens.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:46 AM on March 22, 2007

Hey thanks.
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:47 AM on March 22, 2007

I thought I heard something about a fungus that stretched under some huge swath of China that was even bigger, but I can't find it now.

Its called Communism.
posted by pkingdesign at 12:50 AM on March 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

I would climb the fuck out of those circus trees.
posted by inconsequentialist at 12:52 AM on March 22, 2007

A boab tree was used as a jail in Australia.

I've just come back from Pemberton. Lots of tallazzed trees (Karri, Jarrah and Marri) - but not as impressive as the Giant Sequoias IMHO.

The Karri, Jarrah and Marri forests of Pemberton contain the largest hardwood trees in the world, according to the blurb. There's a beautiful picture if you click the link.

You can climb two of them. It's a bit hairy. Just some big nails in a spril fashion and some chicken wire.

The Gloucester Tree is the most famous. The Bicentennial Tree is a bit taller but the climb is similar.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:15 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

The circus trees are obscene.
posted by pracowity at 1:31 AM on March 22, 2007

Oops, my first comment should also have included this MoFi post on banyan and baobab trees (it's also where I found the Neatorama link).
posted by homunculus at 2:19 AM on March 22, 2007

I THINK that I shall never see
A po[st] lovely as a tree.
Po[sts] are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918
posted by Dave Faris at 3:00 AM on March 22, 2007

argh. accursed title.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:00 AM on March 22, 2007

Ive actualy been to that Jail tree in Western Australia. Those Boabs (as they all them there) where pretty amazing. I remember the first time I drove past one. I has to stop and see what the hell it was. I thought it was an old boiler that a tree had grown through. What was interesting tho was the old graffiti on the jail tree, it had swollen and distorted but was still readable.
posted by gergtreble at 3:01 AM on March 22, 2007

Perhaps the saddest tree story is that of the American Chestnut. Once one of every four trees in the hardwood forests of the east was a chestnut, but a blight accidentally brought from Asia killed nearly every one. The largest remaining specimen is here in Washington, in Clarkston, grown from seeds brought by an settler of the area.

Scientists and amateur enthusiasts have been trying to selectively breed a resistant variety, but without a lot of luck.

Wonderful post, thanks.
posted by maxwelton at 3:06 AM on March 22, 2007

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for that.
posted by brautigan at 3:26 AM on March 22, 2007

Bristlecone Pine: Methuselah and Prometheus, the Oldest Trees in the World.

Or are they? The Yew cannot win any prizes for age due to its curious growth patterns, but it may be the most spiritual of trees.

Wonderful post.
posted by Shave at 3:39 AM on March 22, 2007

There's only one problem with this post:

I can't see the forest for the trees.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:54 AM on March 22, 2007

"One that would have the fruit must climb the tree."
-Thomas Fuller

“Any fine morning a power saw can fell a tree that took a thousand years to grow.”
- Edwin Way Teale

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
-Nelson Henderson

"Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit."
-Kahlil Gibran, "The Vision"

"Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven."
-Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928

"Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong."
-Sir Winston Churchill

"Great talents are the most lovely and often the most dangerous fruits on the tree of humanity. They hang upon the most slender twigs that are easily snapped off."
-C. G. Jung, Psychological Reflections

“the truth of the acorn is the tree”
- bastardisation of Hegel

(Dave Faris beat me to joyce kilmer’s poem)
posted by leibniz at 4:15 AM on March 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

The larch.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:28 AM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

Bonus tree #3: The Treaty Oak. A shadow of its former self, but it deserves an honorable mention if nothing else.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:46 AM on March 22, 2007

Southern Louisiana has some wonderful old live oaks. Whenever I'm near Lafayette I try and go by to see the one at St. John's Cathedral. There's something comforting about being near an old tree. Thanks for this post.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:14 AM on March 22, 2007

Just in time for International Tree Climbing Day 2007!
posted by Luddite at 5:17 AM on March 22, 2007

I saw the Treaty Oak on a trip to Austin a year ago, and was sorely disappointed. I didn't realize it had been vandalized, though, Horace...
posted by HeroZero at 5:19 AM on March 22, 2007

Those circus trees are pretty freaky.

Especially the basket one. You have to wonder what the hell you could do to get a tree to grow like that.
posted by Target Practice at 5:40 AM on March 22, 2007

terapin's MeFi post on American Chestnuts is here.
posted by OmieWise at 5:47 AM on March 22, 2007

Especially the basket one. You have to wonder what the hell you could do to get a tree to grow like that.

Save for the size, that's exactly what Bonsai is- shaping trees as they grow to whatever you want. Given the incredibly slow time frame of the process I would say you have all the time you need to get the tree to grown in whatever direction you want it to.

The part that surprised me was how the trees actually merged together. I never knew they could do that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:54 AM on March 22, 2007

While the tallest hawthorn tree in the world is in Seattle's Volunteer Park, the most magnificent tree in my immediate part of the world is the London Plane in the triangle at Belmont Ave E & Bellevue Pl E--15' 9" in circumference in 2000. Now that is one glorious tree.
posted by y2karl at 6:04 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I never knew they could do that.
It remainds me of a bigger version of the chairs in this post.
posted by MtDewd at 6:46 AM on March 22, 2007

""Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit."
-Kahlil Gibran, "The Vision

Kahil Gibran never fails to get it slightly wrong, somehow.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:55 AM on March 22, 2007

I worked and lived at Lake Crescent for four years. I love big trees.
posted by owhydididoit at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2007

I used to live right up the street from the "Tree that Owns Itself", which might not be a magnificent tree but it's nice nonetheless, and I always found it amusing that the tree juts so far into the street that drivers are forced to slowly navigate around it one at a time. Good for it!
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 7:32 AM on March 22, 2007

Participated at a wedding beneath the oldest Bristlecone Pine some time back. Weather was awful - sleet, rain, hail. all of us under umbrellas while the Justice O' the Peace (who had to be trucked up that gnarley road) stood there getting pounded on.

Then, no joke, as she spoke the words "I now pronounce.." the skies parted, the rain stopped, and the evening sun shone through the oldest tree known in existence. Not a dry eye on the mountain, my own stone-hearted orb included.

I hug old trees as a gesture of respect. Always have.
posted by elendil71 at 8:39 AM on March 22, 2007

Blue Forest Tree HousesWith price tags from as little as £12,000 the possibilities are endless. So let your imagination run wild and we'll find a way to create the perfect tree house for you — gallery here.
posted by cenoxo at 9:59 AM on March 22, 2007

Wow, fantastic find homunculus. There is so much information here that I had no idea about. The Pando section alone had me amazed: the heaviest known organism and it's 80,000 years old? That is freakin' awesome.
posted by quin at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2007

Burhanistan: The tree is its own reward. Being without blossom or fruit doesn't devalue it at all.

Excellent post. Makes me want to go out and sit in the jacarandas that line my street.
posted by Jilder at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2007

Truly, 'tis not the blossoms nor the fruit that make the tree worthwhile;
'Tis the tree itself.
Its limbs reaching to catch drops of rain, of sun, of life,
The calligraphy on its bark a testament to endurance,
Its rings a hidden concentric calendar of years long past,
'Tis the tree itself.

Hug a tree today! Thanks for the post, homunculus!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2007

"Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit."

"How did Gibran get that simile wrong?"
posted by Burhanistan

Are you kidding? Kahil Gibran was a stoned ninny, wasn't he?

Apart from the usual Gibran false gloss of deceptive simplicity (ha!), trees without fruit and/or blossom may have sprouted in the past - or might do so in the future. Therefore they are not a symbol of the permanence implied in "a life without love". Blossomless and/or fruitless trees can be magnificent and inspirational on their own, thankyouverymuch, unclothed natural objects of great charm and wonder - as in so many examples here which stir us to contemplation....and my soul was forever corrupted by reading a priceless satire "The Profit" by one "Khellog [sic] Allbran" as a helpless teenager. (It was a counter counter-culture book my sarcastic parents owned!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

This post is fabulous, and the thread's given me a whole afternoon's worth of links to follow (not what I need right now, but man, these trees are cool). I'd love to make it a personal goal to see all these in person.
posted by painquale at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2007

Before I even clicked on the link, I knew my favorite was in there. Drive-thru tree! My brother saw the sign for it on the highway at made me take the exit to see it. I'm glad he did. I even have an awesome fridge magnet from the gift shop.
posted by ninjew at 12:21 PM on March 22, 2007

y2karl, our house in Fremont had three wonderful plane trees in the parking strip. The largest was perhaps 2-3' in diameter but they were all about 60' tall...and had only been planted in the 60's. There's an enormous specimen in a parking strip east of 99 and west of Stone Way, south of 39th...it's crowding both the road and the sidewalk.

Biggest enemy of magnificent street trees are overhead power lines...yet another reason the lines should be buried.
posted by maxwelton at 12:59 PM on March 22, 2007

The Angel Oak in Charleston, SC is reportedly the oldest thing east of the Rockies.
posted by chiababe at 1:42 PM on March 22, 2007

They forgot my mighty oak.

posted by The Card Cheat at 1:42 PM on March 22, 2007

I reckon E regnans deserves some recognition for being definitely the tallest flowering tree, and likely the tallest tree.
posted by wilful at 4:16 PM on March 22, 2007

Speaking of famous trees, up until a few years ago, Plato's Olive Tree was still (barely) alive. I guess it's dead now (scroll to bottom), but the remains are kept at the Agricultural University of Athens in the main building, near the sacred Olive Grove where the Academia was first formed.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:16 PM on March 22, 2007

Don't forget Mr. Edison's Banyon tree, aka the amazing and fierce Strangler Fig. Planted in Fort Meyers Florida, Thomas experimented with it as a potential material for the filament in his whack idea, the incandescent bulb. A gift from Harvey Firestone, it was about two feet tall when panted and now covers the area of two football fields.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:50 PM on March 22, 2007

I'll put in a vote for the Giant Sitka Spruce in Oregon. Which I note is dying. Dang.

One of the better days of my life involved visiting that tree. When I awoke that morning I had never seen the Pacific Ocean, flown in a helicopter, or seen a tree anywhere near that big. By the end of that day, I had done all three.

It was midweek, so I had some time to wander around it with no other tourists about. It was quiet, peaceful, and amazing.

I'm glad I got the chance.
posted by bitmage at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2007

This thread is inspiring me to visit South Manitou Island off the coast of Leland, MI to take some photos of the white cedars that make up the Valley of the Giants. Some of the cedars are 15 feet around.
posted by NoMich at 8:00 PM on March 22, 2007

Legend has it that the Tree That Owns Itself [wiki], a white oak in Athens, Georgia was given ownership of itself and the surrounding land by Dr. William Henry Jackson in 1820! The original tree had died long ago, but a new tree (Son of The Tree That Owns Itself) was planted at the same location from one of its acorns.

Holy crap. I thought that story was cool the first time I rode around that tree, but I didn't know it was that famous. Funny what you can learn round' here.
posted by jmd82 at 9:08 PM on March 22, 2007

homunculus, linking freerepublic on metafilter makes me laugh.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:30 PM on March 22, 2007

ah, lovely post homunculus. People who love peepuls, the Bodhi tree. The Great Oak, Sherwood Forest. This huge tree is at least 800 years old. Huge tree roots surround an entrance way at Ta Prohm temple at Angkor, more, more. The tree wrapped around a stone Buddha in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand. Tree and shrine, India.

posted by nickyskye at 11:02 PM on March 22, 2007

homunculus, linking freerepublic on metafilter makes me laugh.

But what could I do? The New Yorker removed the original article from their website, while Free Republic preserved it on theirs. True conservationsists, those Freepers.
posted by homunculus at 11:53 PM on March 22, 2007

Darius Kinsey photographs of loggers. The great trees that were.

Always loved the big, old trees by Maxfield Parrish, Dreaming/October, The Glen, Autumn...
posted by nickyskye at 8:44 AM on March 23, 2007

Capitol Hill is Seattle's best tree neighborhood. There is no disputing that. For diversity and quantity of aged trees, it is easily the top pick. Its architecture is also outstanding, although I don't begin to know whether local architects, if polled, would vote it the finest neighborhood in this respect. Much of the appeal of the Hill is in its stately old shade trees and mansions. Fred Anhalt, who died this month at age 101, was a developer who made a dramatic impact because of his distinctive style. Anhalt's apartment buildings have been termed eclectic Tudor-Gothic, and other names. To casual observers such as myself, untrained in the vocabulary of architecture, the buildings are picturesque, romantic, nostalgic, and --in one word-- comforting. They are rich in soul and perennially popular.
At least one Anhalt apartment complex has an extraordinary tree as well. I refer to the oak of Oak Manor, 730 Belmont Avenue E. Not only is this oak wonderful as an ornamental shade tree, it is furthermore Capitol Hill's only old native oak. Seattle (indeed, all of Washington and British Columbia) has only one species of oak tree. It is called Garry Oak or Oregon White Oak, Quercus Garryana, its 1839 name honoring Nicholas Garry (1781 - 1856), an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company. To see this oak in abundance, visit Victoria or the Fort Lewis area. In Seattle its occurrence is spotty, most being in the Seward Park vicinity.
Anhalt built Oak Manor in 1928, at which time, he said in 1982, "the tree was about one-half of the size that it is now. How old it would have been then I cannot tell you. The tree has doubled its size in width and also in height since 1928. It has been protected with a fence around it and with no other plants under it. It has received the same care as any other plants and trees planted at that time."

Oak Manor
I seem to recall an article in the Weekly that made the claim that oak sprouted some years before Captain Cook sailed into Puget Sound.

Tall Tales from the Northwest: Big Trees of Seattle

Seattle Heritage Trees

A Douglas fir in Seward Park
posted by y2karl at 11:48 PM on March 26, 2007

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