A Bosnian Pine from Greece has been dated to be at least 1075 years old, making it the oldest living thing in Europe. Adonis, as it was named, could teach us a lot about c;o,ate/

Adonis, Europe’s oldest known inhabitant. Photo: Dr Oliver Konter, Mainz

For the past thousand years, a lone observer has stood tall, watching the Old Continent without interruption. Well, he wasn’t quite alone – he was surrounded by more than a dozen other millennial trees.

”It is quite remarkable that this large, complex and impressive organism has survived so long in such an inhospitable environment, in a land that has been civilized for over 3000 years” says Swedish dendrochronologist, Paul J. Krusic, leader of the expedition that found the tree.

Pinus heldreichii – the Bosnian pine – is a species of pine native to mountainous areas of the Balkans and southern Italy. It grows up to 25–35 m (82–115 ft) height, and 2 m (6 ft 7 in) trunk diameter. They also get to live to impressive ages, though this “millennial gang of trees” definitely breaks the norm.

”Many years ago I read a thesis about this very interesting forest in Greece. In our research, we try to build long chronologies to construct climate histories, so finding living trees of old age is one of our motivations. To age the tree, we needed to take a core of wood, from the outside to the center. The core is one meter and has 1075 annual rings” says Krusic.

Krusic and the team was impressed by the tree, naming it Adonis after the Greek God of beauty, desire and rebirth.

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Elderly trees are rare in Europe, being much more common in North America, especially in the United States. The cause is likely humans – Europe has been historically much more active than North America, and therefore it was a lot likelier for a tree to be cut down or burned down.

Scientists weren’t necessarily interested in finding oldest trees, but finding clues about the chronology of European climate. The tree rings can offer valuable information about the local and global climate for over a thousand years. For example, tree rings could tell us if a year was rainy or dry, or if there was a sudden change in temperature.

”I am impressed, in the context of western civilization, all the human history that has surrounded this tree; all the empires, the Byzantine, the Ottoman, all the people living in this region. So many things could have led to its demise. Fortunately, this forest has been basically untouched for over a thousand years” says Krusic.

He even released a timeline of humanity’s history in relationship to Adonis, just so we get a sense of perspective for how long the tree’s actually been around:

  • 941 – Adonis is a seedling. The Byzantine Empire is at its peak. From the North, the Vikings reach the Black Sea.
  • 1041 – Adonis is a 100 years old. In China, a book is published describing gunpowder. A man called Macbeth is crowned King of Scotland.
  • 1191 – Adonis is 250 years old. The universities of Oxford and Paris are founded. The third crusade battles Saladin in the Holy Land.
  • 1441 – Adonis is 500 years old. The Ottoman empire conquers Greece. Many Greek scholars flee to the west, influencing the Renaissance. In Sweden, the first parliament is held in Arboga. Johannes Gutenberg is about to test his first printing press.
  • 1691 – Adonis is 750 years old. Isaac Newton has formulated his Laws on Motion. Ice cream, tea and coffee are introduced in Europe.
  • 1941 – Adonis is a millennium old. World War II is ravaging the world. Greece is occupied by Nazi Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.

Damn, that’s impressive! Hopefully, Adonis will be alive and kicking for centuries to come.