10 of Europe's Most Remarkable Trees

Each year, the Environmental Partnership Association in concert with the European Landowners’ Organization awards a special honor to a single tree: The European Tree of the Year. Quite frankly, I’d say there are no losers when it comes to trees – but the lovely and popular contest is a great way to shine the spotlight on our arboreal cohabitants. In singling out specific trees, we learn their stories and become a bit more emotionally invested in them. And the more we respect and revere these glorious and essential organisms that we share the planet with, the better.

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Oak Józef, Poland

credit: Rafał Godek

This 650-year old English oak (Quercus robur) resides in Wiśniowa, Podkarpackie province, Poland – and is special not only for its grandeur but for its unique history and especially its hospitality. During WWII the oak became shelter for a Jewish family hiding from the Nazis. The kind oak’s image was printed on Polish 100 złoty bills and it plays muse to painters and photographers alike. What a good tree! And the grand champion for this year's contest, as well.

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The Brimmon Oak, Wales, UK

credit: Tracey Williams

Oh this pulchritudinous pedunculate oak! This Quercus robur in Newtown, Powys, Wales, UK is over 500 years old and has been tended to by one family for generations. However this majestic creature was threatened with by the ax several years back when it was deemed to be in the way of a new bypass. Thank goodness for farmer (and tree hero) Mervyn Jones, who campaigned diligently to save the tree – in the end, the bypass was rerouted. Who would chop down a 500-year old tree for a road?? What folly. But now the Brimmon Oak can continue on with its beautiful legacy.

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The lime tree at Lipka, Czech Republic

credit: Tomáš Kubelka

This incredible 800-year-old beauty is a small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) that can be found in Lipka at Horní Bradlo of the Czech Republic. The tree lives on a road that goes from the manor in Lipka to a former cemetery; it was planted when the first manor here was built in the 13th century. Among other illustrious traits, it is said to grant those who make love under its branches everlasting love which will overcome all difficulties in life. Saucy tree! (Maybe that's why they keep it illuminated.)

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The Céron park rain tree, Martinique

credit: Jean-Baptiste Barret

This exquisite 300-year-old rain tree (Albizia saman) is a lucky one – it gets to live in Le Prêcheur, Martinique. (Which isn't on the European continent per se, but is an overseas region of France and is thus eligible.) This giant beauty is registered as one of the largest trees in the Lesser Antilles and has remarkably survived all of the island’s cyclones, as well as the eruption of Mount Pelée volcano in 1902.

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The Sycamore Gap Tree, England, UK

credit: John Millar

At several hundred years old, the Sycamore Gap Tree (Acer pseudoplatanus) poetically punctuates a dip along Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland, England. It is an exceedingly popular tree – and one can see why. But aside from its obvious beauty, the tree was made famous for its role in the 1991 film, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (despite being far away from Sherwood Forest) and is now affectionately known as the "Robin Hood tree."

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The Holm Oak, Northern Ireland, UK

credit: Alistair Livingstone

The 200-year-old Holm oak (Quercus ilex) lives in the main Fairy Glen entrance to Kilbroney Park in County Down, Northern Ireland. Beloved for generations, it has served as shelter for celebrations and its unique angle has made it a favorite for young tree climbers. It has been visited by such luminaries as Charles Dickens, C. S. Lewis and the young Princess Elizabeth – if only trees could talk to humans, what stories would they tell?

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Venerable sessile oak of Nasalevtsi church, Bulgaria

credit: Lyudmila Gyurova

This 600-year-old Sessile oak (Quercus Petrea) can be found in the Village of Nasalevtsi in Bulgaria, where it stands guard of the Nativity of Mary Church church. The site is considered a sacred place, having hosted a church on the same location as far back as the 12th century.

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The "Ding Dong" Tree, Scotland, UK

credit: Niall Benvie

A youth among the elders, so to speak, this 30-year-old copper beech (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea) is a beloved member of the Prestonpans Primary school in Scotland, UK. The tree gets its name from students who play a game of tag with the tree at its center, singing "ding dong" all the while. The tree serves as an outdoor classroom and plays host to science and art projects. The headteacher says this copper beech is so woven into the life and identity of the school, "it’s almost like having an extra member of staff."

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Plane tree from Budatin, Slovakia

credit: Květa Kicková

This 270-year-old London plane tree (Platanus hispanica) lives in Žilina's the Castle park in North Slovakia. It stands side-by-side with a smaller plane that is not quite as robust, yet, the "two plane trees grow together as two different brothers, their roots are inextricably bound." And that's not just woo-woo tree talk, see: Trees can form bonds like an old couple and look after each other.

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Aprisquillo Pine, Spain

credit: P. Nogueras

At more than 350 years in age, this lovely black pine (Pinus nigra) resides in La Adrada (Ávila), Spain. Soaring more than 110 feet in height, the pine towers above its neighbors, earning it the nickname "giant of the valley." To see "the giant" live (though described in Spanish), watch the video about it below:

For more spectacular trees, see: 10 of the world's most remarkable trees