Some trees inspire stories; others have stories to tell. Meet some of the world’s most fascinating trees — your journey to see them may just become part of your life story.
No. 1: Coast Redwood
The tallest tree in the world is the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), which grows along the Pacific Coast. Hyperion, the tallest coast redwood, soars to 379 feet tall, dwarfing the Statue of Liberty (305 feet). This giant is 600 years old; its location remains a secret.
One coast redwood, known as the Chandelier Tree, is a drive-through tree – with a 6- by 9-foot passage cut through its base that’s big enough to fit a car. These redwoods are unknowingly familiar to movie-goers for their role in creating stunning backdrops for Jurassic Park and Star Wars Return of the Jedi (the ewok battles were filmed among coast redwoods).
No. 2: Tree of Life
Tourists trek to the desert of Bahrain to see a 400-year-old mesquite tree that thrives atop a 25-foot sandy hill. This tree grows without any apparent water source in sight – and no surrounding vegetation. Locals tout this place as the site of the Garden of Eden.
No. 3: Moon Trees
In 1971, astronaut Stuart Roosa of Apollo 14 ferried hundreds of tree seeds to space as part of a U.S. Forest Service experiment. Upon his return, the seeds were planted to determine the impacts of space travel upon growth. Today these trees thrive at many locations across the country, including schools, libraries, universities, and on the grounds of state capitols and the White House. Find your closest moon tree.
No. 4: Major Oak
According to local folklore, Robin Hood and his merry men often took refuge in this ancient oak of Sherwood Forest, with its built-in hiding spot in the hollow trunk. Major Oak is an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). At more than 800 years old (some reckon more than 1,000), it’s the biggest oak in England and produces up to 150,000 acorns per year.
No. 5: Baobab
The baobob or monkey bread tree (genus Adansonia) has a swollen trunk that’s used for storing water in its native drought-plagued environs, which include Madagascar, mainland Africa and Australia. The trunks can store up to 31,700 gallons of water but are also often pressed into service in other creative ways. In Australia’s utback, a baobab trunk was used as a prison; in Zambia, one offers a bathroom break.
No. 6: Circus Trees
In the 1920s, farmer Axel Erlandson started grafting and shaping trees to create what’s known today as the Circus Trees. These unusual trees sport complex shapes in their trunks, including rings, hearts and lightning bolts. Six sycamore trees grafted together create a stunning living basket. Other trees he used include box elder, ash and Spanish cork. Erlandson carried his grafting techniques to the grave, but today 29 of his legacy trees thrive in Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy, Calif.
No. 7: Edison Banyan
As part of his quest to establish a domestic rubber source, inventor Thomas Edison planted a 4-inch sapling of the Indian banyan, (Ficus bengalensis) at his winter estate in Fort Myers, Fla., in 1925. Today, the tree covers a little more than an acre of ground and measures roughly 64 feet high.
No. 8: Pando Aspen
Over the course of 80,000 years, a single clonal colony of a male quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) has produced more than 47,000 stems from the same root system. The result is “The Trembling Giant,” a grove of trees that is actually one tree and is accepted worldwide to be the oldest living organism. It also goes by the name “Pando,” Latin for “I spread,” which this tree does.
No. 9: Anne Frank Tree
When Anne and her family hid in an Amsterdam attic for two years during World War II, she took comfort in a white horse-chestnut tree she could see in a neighbor’s garden. In 2010, that tree fell, but saplings have been planted around the world, including nine U.S. locations. Worldwide sapling locations include England, Montreal and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.