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The Remarkable Tale of the Olive Tree of Vouves & Its Missing Heartwood

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » The Remarkable Tale of the Olive Tree of Vouves & Its Missing Heartwood

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Nestled in the charming village of Ano Vouves, which sounds like a place you’d imagine in a fairy tale, stands a living piece of history—the Olive Tree of Vouves.

This is no ordinary tree; it is one of the oldest olive trees on the planet, making it a truly remarkable specimen of nature’s longevity.

It still bears olives, making it not only ancient but also impressively productive!

The age of this leafy legend is a hot topic among tree buffs. Because its heartwood went missing over the ages (perhaps spirited away by a mischievous dryad?), traditional aging methods like radioisotopes are off the table.

Ancient Olive tree of Vouves

However, through the magic of tree ring analysis, experts agree it’s at least 2,000 years old.

But why stop there?

Some tree scholars from the University of Crete throw around the number 4,000—talk about seniority!

Adding a dash of mystery, the tree stands guard over two cemeteries from the Geometric Period. This proximity might just hint at its venerable age, or it could simply be Crete’s oldest natural monument doubling as a history teacher.

Despite its age, the Vouves Olive is not ready for retirement. Its trunk, a whopping 12.5 meters in circumference, supports a thriving crown thanks to a little help from its friend, the ‘Tsounati’ cultivar.

This tree isn’t just living history; it’s making history, too.

In 1997, it was crowned a protected natural monument. If that wasn’t enough, in 2009, the Olive Tree Museum of Vouves popped up to show off olive cultivation’s ins and outs, housed charmingly in a 19th-century local home.

Oh, and let’s not forget its Olympic moments—branches from this celebrity tree were transformed into victory wreaths for the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games.

That’s right, this tree doesn’t just grow olives; it grows gold medalists!

So, if you find yourself in Crete, swing by Ano Vouves. Who knows? You might just get to meet an olive tree older than most monuments, still partying like it’s 999 BC!

Digging Deeper Into The Olive Tree of Vouves

Location

Situated in Ano Vouves, a quaint village within the Kolymvari municipal unit of Chania, Crete, Greece, the Olive Tree of Vouves is a significant natural landmark.

Positioned at coordinates 35°29′12″N 23°47′13″E, this storied tree stands out in the Mediterranean landscape, drawing visitors and scholars alike to marvel at its ancient stature.

Type of Tree

This ancient organism is an olive tree, scientifically known as Olea europaea, which has been grafted with the ‘Tsounati’ cultivar to maintain its ability to produce fruit.

The tree’s vast trunk, measuring about 12.5 meters in circumference and 4.6 meters in diameter, showcases its immense size and historical growth.

Is the Olive Tree of Vouves Still Alive?

Still alive and bearing fruit, the Olive Tree of Vouves showcases its remarkable longevity and ongoing biological productivity.

Despite the loss of its heartwood and the challenges of accurately dating such an ancient tree, it serves as a living link to the past.

Descendants

Successfully grafted, the Olive Tree of Vouves ensures its lineage thrives through new generations of trees that carry its genetic material.

These descendants continue to spread the unique genetic makeup of one of the world’s oldest olive trees.

Can You Visit It?

Visitors can freely access the Olive Tree of Vouves, offering a unique glimpse at one of the oldest olive trees still standing.

Next to the tree, the Olive Tree Museum of Vouves, established in 2009 within a 19th-century building, displays an array of traditional olive cultivation tools.

Conservation

Recognized for its ecological and historical significance, the tree was declared a protected natural monument in 1997.

Ongoing conservation efforts ensure the tree’s preservation and raise public awareness of its cultural and natural heritage.

Legacy

Branches from the Olive Tree of Vouves were used to create victors’ wreaths for the Olympic Games held in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, linking it to a global cultural event.

The Olive tree’s enduring legacy is celebrated through its contributions to cultural traditions and its representation of ecological survival and resilience.

Want More?

Has the Olive Tree of Vouves captured your curiosity?

If so, you might be equally intriqued by the stories of other unique trees from around the world.

Discover the rare Pennantia baylisiana, the storied Prison Boab Tree in Australia, Hyperion—the world’s tallest living tree, the enigmatic Tree of Life in Bahrain, the lone majesty of the Tree of Ténéré in Niger, or the iconic Avenue of Baobabs.

Each tree presents a distinct tale that links the natural world with human history, inviting you to learn more and ponder their significant legacies.

Sources – Wikipedia

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!