Researchers have discovered the oldest tree in Europe: it is 1200 years old and is in Italy.

The millenary trees are only a handful in the world and Europe has just discovered its oldest representative. In the heart of an Italian national park is a rocky 1230 year old pine tree. This tree has been the focus of attention since then because, beyond its remarkable age, scientists are also interested in everything it has been through over the centuries.

Located in the heart of the Pollino National Park, Europe’s oldest tree, a Heldreich pine, grows on a steep, rocky slope in the middle of the mountains. While the neighbouring trees are between 500 and 600 years old, this Heldreich pine is over 1230 years old.

From its large white branches, it dominates a preserved landscape and, despite its great age, continues to flourish. A team from the University of Tuscia led by Gianluca Piovesan observed him in detail and found that he has experienced a growth spurt in recent decades.

Unlike humans or animals, trees do not age. If nothing disturbs their growth (extreme conditions, diseases…), they can therefore be immortal. An old tree is considered alive as long as at least small parts are still alive. For the Pollino National Park pine, a large part of its crown is dead but the rest of its trunk is alive. It can therefore potentially live for several centuries.

To date this millennial pine tree, the team that studied it realized that the task would be more complicated than expected. Generally, to date a tree, it is enough to observe its central part and to count the rings. However, in this particular case, much of the rings were missing because of the condition of the tree.

Alfredo Di Filippo, one of the research team members, explained that « The inside of the wood was like dust – we’ve never seen anything like it. At least 20 centimetres of wood was missing, which is a lot of years. « The researchers then turned to the tree’s roots. Being in better condition, these were then observed in detail and thanks to a new method combining several existing techniques. So they managed to date the tree.

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