800-Year-Old Oak Tree Stops Traffic in Turkey

oak tree silhouette branches photo

Silhouette of an oak tree. Photo: Brian Michelsen / Creative Commons.

New roads are built all the time in Turkey without much fuss, but the prospect of losing a massive oak tree that had stood in their town for 800 years brought residents of one Aegean village out into the streets recently to halt the completion of the Denizli-Salihli Highway.Villagers and environmentalists in Kadıköy village, part of Buldan district in Denizli province, began standing guard around the 800-year-old oak tree to keep it from being chopped down as part of the road-construction process, the Doğan news agency reported this week.

"The highway can pass by anywhere, but how many trees are there around that are 800 years old?" asked Salih Atlamaz, head of the Buldan Association for the Protection of Natural Life and Culture.

An Officially Monumental Tree
In a bid to keep the tree standing, local residents successfully petitioned for it to be registered as a "monumental tree" (anıt ağaç in Turkish), a designation that confers protection. Turkey's monumental trees include a famous Oriental plane tree outside the gate of Istanbul's Topkapı Palace and a 650-plus-year-old plane tree in the nearby town of İznik.

An official commission extended protected status to the tree after determining that it was indeed seven to eight centuries old, meaning that although road construction will likely continue in another location, the oak will continue to shade Kadıköy residents.

"If we cut down these trees, we will be denying our past. We have saved the tree through our efforts, and the real victory belongs to the villagers who protected the tree," Atlamaz told the Doğan news agency. "I encourage all other citizens to take responsibility for their cultural, historical and natural assets."

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