Trees are strangely relatable. We often treat them like people—we make their acquaintance, develop favourites, and, if we spend a lot of time with a them, we even come to regard them as old friends. If you’re someone with a tendency to personify trees, then you might not be entirely surprised to learn that some trees are more acclaimed than others. In fact, some trees are downright famous.
Like people, celebri-trees are significant for the roles they play in history, art, and science. They might be record-breakers, great beauties, or total weirdos. Whatever they are, like all effective public personalities, they intrigue people and start conversations. In England, there’s even a yearly title awarded to the tree of the year.
This gallery is devoted to some of the most fascinating, most talked-about, most superlative trees in the world. Take a look—you may find yourself star-struck.
Not sure what Major Oak is famous for? Here's a hint: it lives in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Yes, this is the tree where the folkloric hero Robin Hood was said to hide out. The tree is estimated to be over a thousand years old, so it would have been present during the years when legends of Robin Hood were being told. It's a heroic tree that represents the heroic feats of the archer outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor.
General Sherman, living in California's Sequoia National Park, is the largest tree in the world by volume. In other words, it's not the tallest or widest tree in the world, but it does take up the most space overall. And that's not to say it's not tall or wide—General Sherman is about 275 feet tall and 100 feet wide. Nevertheless, he's defeated in height by another California tree, Hyperion, which measures 380 feet tall.
Arbor del Tule
This Montezuma Cypress takes another size record: it has the world's stoutest trunk. It is found in the town centre of Santa María del Tule, Mexico, where it has grown for somewhere between 1,200 and 3,000 years. Due to its size, it was originally thought to be multiple trees, but DNA tests proved it really is just one specimen with an unusually gigantic trunk.
The Anne Frank Tree
This tree's legacy is bittersweet. The horse-chestnut tree was visible from the attic of Anne Frank's Secret Annex in Amsterdam, and she wrote in her diary of how it gave her hope: "Nearly every morning . . . I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy." Sadly the tree blew down in a 2010 storm, but saplings from the original tree have been given to worthy organizations and planted throughout the world.
Pando, the Trembling Giant
This grove of quaking Aspen might look like a lot of trees, but in fact, the entire group is just a single organism. The 107-acre grove shares a single root system, and the trees are genetically identical. People once thought Pando was the world's largest organism, but thousand-acre fungal mats have since taken the title (but we doubt we'll be making a list of famous fungal mats). Sadly, many scientists believe that Pando is slowly dying, though they can't pinpoint a single reason why.
The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life in Bahrain is considered a natural wonder. Isolated in the middle of the desert, the tree has no apparent source of water. Its survival is a metaphor for the resilience of life.
The anonymous P. longaeva
There is no photo of the world's oldest living non-clonal tree because its identity is actually a secret. Tom Harlan, a researcher at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, is the only one who knows where it is. A Great Bristlecone Pine in California named Methuselah was once thought to be the world's oldest tree at around 4,800 years, but Harlan says his now deceased colleague Edward Schulman actually cored an even older tree in the same area. The anonymous tree is thought to be over 5,000 years old.