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26 February 2024 ( 28 views )
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3,000-Year-Old Greek Olive Tree in Greece Still Grows Olives

3,000-Year-Old Greek Olive Tree on Crete Still Grows Olives

The magnificent Olive Tree of Vouves in the village of Ano Vouves in Crete, Greece. (Photo: Eric Nagle via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0)

Trees have a certain steadfast, understated beauty. Their longevity means they see people, seasons, and even historical events come and go. Some trees have seen more than others. One twisted, magnificent olive tree in the village of Ano Vouves on the Greek island of Crete has seen millennia spanning from the fall of the Roman Empire to the return of the Olympics to Athens in 2004. The Olive Tree of Vouves is thought to be thousands of years old. Despite this impressive age, the living tree still produces olives for harvest.

Olives were being grown commercially on Crete at least 3,000 years ago. Olive oil figured heavily in diets and literature. The Vouves tree dates to this error of important production. Isotope dating is not possible as the tree's heartwood has decayed within its twisted 15-foot diameter. However, its rings show it has been around for at least two millennia. This baseline estimate could be on the low end of possibility, though, with other estimates ranging upwards to 4,000 years old.

After all these years, one might expect the tree to be withered and dry. However, cultivars (grafted plants) have enabled the tree to continue producing olives. Its boughs adorned the head of winners at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, an iconic return to tradition. While the Olive Tree of Vouves is now protected, it is not the only ancient tree in the world. A Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in California is 4,854 years old. This means its seed germinated in 2832 BCE while early Mesopotamian civilizations were crafting cities and trading, and Egypt was beginning its Second Dynasty. Another olive tree, known as “The Sisters” or “Sisters Olive Trees of Noah” in Lebanon, is estimated to be 6,000 years old. These trees have survived wars, pandemics, droughts, and fires—true displays of resilience.

This ancient olive tree on the Greek island of Crete still produces olives after over 2,000 years.

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