Monday, December 7, 2009

Hunting (and hugging) ancient trees

This wild olive tree from Italy is said to be 3800 years old!

Need a new family-friendly outdoor activity? How about an Ancient Tree Hunt?

If you live in the UK, join the Woodland Trust, "the UK's leading woodland conservation charity," in trying to locate and map "all the fat, old trees across the UK." Over 25,000 trees have been recorded since 2004. You can search for recorded trees by factors like location (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, etc.), species, and age.

Want to find your own tree to record? Ancient Tree Hunt provides these tips for getting started as you hunt "new" trees to discover. Keep in mind that Ancient Tree Hunt does not classify a tree's age by calendar years, but instead by its life stage. A tree must be old compared to others of its kind and in its final stage of life to merit ancient tree status (some younger trees can be listed as notable or veteran).

I found this interesting -- old trees are generally not the tallest. Ancient trees are commonly wizened and shrunken, much like very old people. As expected, though, old trees do have thick trunks. I love this about Ancient Tree Hunt: they suggest that you measure your trees by hugging them. I'm sure this is for practical reasons, but it seems awfully sweet to me. What better way to honor an ancient tree than by giving it a hug?

"The fattest oak tree in Britain would take about nine adults to hug it, finger tip to finger tip."
-- Ancient Tree Hunt website

I wonder if there's an ancient tree hunt in the US? I'll have to look into it ... and I'll keep you posted! In the meantime, I'll have to settle for visiting Ancient Tree Hunt to send tree-themed e-cards and set up a new desktop calendar for my laptop.

Photo credit: Babele Dunnit through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License via Flickr.

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