By Stephen Messenger, Tree Hugger
They may have never starred in a Hollywood blockbuster or released a multi-platinum record, and they may be a bit quiet and rigid on camera — but that hasn’t stopped the world’s most famous trees from gaining celebrity status. These trees have led some long and fascinating lives — intermingling with notable figures throughout history and inspiring people for ages.
The Lone Cypress
The Lone Cypress in Pebble Beach, perfectly positioned against its scenic backdrop, has become symbolic of the rugged northern California coast.Thought to be around 250 years old, the cypress actually predates much of the settlement in the region, though this fact hasn’t stopped folks from trying to profit it. In 1990, the Pebble Beach Company, owner of the famed golf club which uses the Lone Cypress as its logo, claimed to have trademarked the tree’s image — despite the fact that it has long been a favorite subject of photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Bitter legal battles over custody, it seems, aren’t limited to child stars.
Although pursuing a career as an actor or musician is good way to become famous, it’s hard to match the celebrity status of lunar astronauts — it might come as a surprise that most astronauts aren’t even human. To date, only 12 people have made the voyage to the moon, compared to around 450 trees that survived the trip as seeds. In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa carried with him hundreds of seeds from five different types of trees to the moon as an experiment for the U.S. Forest Service.
Back on Earth, nearly all of the seeds sprouted. Today, these “Moon Trees” can be found growing in states across the U.S., and even as far away as Brazil and Switzerland. Talk about a cozy retirement!
Playing a character from folklore in a movie is one way of getting famous — being there in real life is another. Major Oak is a massive tree, thought to be around 800 years old, growing in the Britain’s Sherwood Forest.According to local legend, the giant oak was used as shelter by Robin Hood and his men, its hollowed trunk making a perfect hideout. In 2002, Major Oak was voted Britain’s favorite tree, though its fame has clearly crossed the pond. In recent years, police have been cracking down on people selling seeds alleged to be from the old oak, via the internet, to Americans. Turns out even trees need to worry about illegitimate offspring popping up when they get famous.
Photo: doubleplusgood crimethink
The Anne Frank Tree
While trees become celebrities for a variety of reasons, few are more inspiring than one horse-chestnut tree in the city of Amsterdam. Known as the Anne Frank tree, this towering specimen gave hope to the world’s most famous diarist during her years of hiding from Nazi capture. Frank describes the tree in The Diary of a Young Girl: “Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor 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.”
The Anne Frank tree still stands today and has been selected for special preservation.
Photo: anne frank tree
The Tree of Life
For years, tourists have flocked to the desert of Bahrain to see a solitary mesquite tree, considered a natural wonder. Aptly named The Tree of Life, this 400 year old specimen is unusually hearty — for it grows without a clear source of water.To this day, no one is really sure exactly how the tree has managed to survive in the middle of a dry desert with no other vegetation around. As they say, where there’s life there’s hope — and for The Tree of Life, it seems hope springs eternal too, even where water doesn’t.
The Cedars of God
Getting frequent mentions in entertainment tabloids is one way celebrities rise to fame, but none of that really compares to being referenced in the world’s all-time bestselling book.Lebanon’s most famous grove of trees, known as the Cedars of God, played such an important role in history that it is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. These remotely located trees are all that remain of a cedar forest that was largely deforested throughout history by the likes of King Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar.
A quote from the Bible shows just how highly regarded these trees were: “The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.” Not even the Beatles get a nod like that, and they were bigger than Jesus!
Boab Prison Tree
Just like in today’s celebrity-crazed culture, sometimes trees, too, get famous for all the wrong reasons.A good example of this can be seen in Australia‘s Boab Prison Tree, a 1,500-year-old specimen with a bulbous hollow trunk. It is reputed that the tree was once used as a temporary jail by police while transporting Aboriginal prisoners from their homes to work camps in the late 19th century. Nowadays, the tree serves as a reminder of that bygone era.
Photo: The Grateful Dad
Leave it to humans to look at a majestic, towering redwood tree and think “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could drive through this thing?”At some point in the 1930s, promoters trying to bring tourists up to Northern California’s Redwood forests thought the natural wonders alone weren’t enough, and carved holes in the bases of several ancient trees so cars could pass through them. Nowadays, Drive-thru Trees like this one have become representative of an age where progress and nature were in direct conflict — though for a few dollars you can still take your car through one of the four trees like this that are still standing.
The Bodhi Tree
Few trees on Earth have the spiritual significance of The Bodhi Tree in eastern India.According to ancient texts, Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, spent a week staring at a Bodhi tree in this spot in gratitude for having recently achieved Enlightenment. The tree became a sacred spot in the Buddha’s lifetime, attracting pilgrims from across Asia. After the tree died, it was replaced with another — currently the site of a Buddhist temple. Direct descendants of that original Bodhi Tree have found their way across the globe — growing as far away as Hawaii.
The Tree That Owns Itself
Sometimes it becomes necessary for celebrities who reach a certain level of fame to manage their own careers — take Madonna and Oprah.Well, one white oak in Athens, Georgia may be the first to have the same distinction. The Tree That Owns Itself, as it’s known, originally grew on the property of William Jackson, who had fond memories of the tree from his childhood.
The story goes that Jackson, in hopes of preserving the white oak after his death, wrote a deed granting the tree ownership of itself.
According to a newspaper article written about the tree in 1890, this is what was penned: “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.”
Whether the deed was legally binding or not, the tree remained on the property until its death in 1942. Worry not, however, for the tree’s legacy continues with its offspring named, you guessed it, Son of The Tree That Owns Itself.
Photo: fuzzy blue one/ pixdaus