Changing Planet

1,075-Year-Old Pine Named ‘Adonis’ Is Europe’s Oldest-Known Living Tree

A Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) growing in the highlands of northern Greece has been dendrocronologically dated to be more than 1,075 years old, living since the time of the Vikings, according to a team of scientists from Stockholm University (Sweden), the University of Mainz (Germany) and the University of Arizona (USA). This makes it the oldest-known living tree in Europe. Dendochronology is the science of dating through analysis of tree rings.

“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 3,000 years,” says Swedish dendrochronologist, Paul J. Krusic, leader of the expedition that found the tree. It is one of more than a dozen individuals of millennial age living in a treeline forest in the Pindos mountains.

“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” Krusic says in a news release issued this week by the University of Stockholm.

The scientists hope the annual variations of the tree rings from trees like this and those fallen in centuries past, yet still preserved on the ground, will provide an informative history of climatic and environmental conditions, going back thousands of years, the news release added.

Why the Tree is Named Adonis

Considering where the tree was found, and its venerable age, the scientists have named this individual ‘Adonis’ after the Greek god of beauty and desire,” the university statement explained.

“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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 8.41.29 AMThe millennium-old trees were discovered during research expeditions conducted by the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), a cooperation between Stockholm University, the Academy of Athens and TEMES S.A. The observatory studies climate change and its impact on environment and humans in the Mediterranean.

Milestones in the Life of Adonis

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.

This post was based on the University of of Stockholm news statement.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Ophelia Myth Media

    The OMM team are puzzled. There are several living older trees in Europe. Is it that this tree’s age is precisely dated? Is it the oldest living tree with a confirmed exact age?

  • John Stile

    That is amazing considering all the things that could’ve happen to Adonis over all of those years. Are there any future plans to protect this treasure,or as I’m calling it “the Eighth Wonder of the World”?

  • Ian Dimit

    941 in Preslav, Bulgarian Empire Tsar Peter ruled. The Byzantine Empire was at its second peak under Basilios II 80 years later (fjrst peak under Justinian 527-565) This part of the world was Bulgarian until 1018 and become part of Bulgaria again. Greetings

  • Hal Aljibury

    There’s a 4K year old yew tree in Turkey, and there’s a several thousand year old olive tree in Italy that I found referenced on wikipedia. It’s also not even the oldest tree in Greece, as there is an olive tree on Crete that is at least 2,000 years old by tree-ring count, (and probably substantially older). It’s exact age is indeterminate, due to loss of heartwood.


  • kpl

    Was this tree found in the area on the border with Albania that we call “EPIROS”?

  • billious

    Some vandal will now come along and chop it down for firewood.

  • Louis E.

    There are definitely older trees in Europe that are not as precisely dated.Yews and olives,mainly,I think.

  • Chris Landau

    After sacking Rome in 455 AD/CE, the Vandal empire collapsed in 534 CE. The tree had not yet sprouted, so it is really impossible for the Vandals to come back from the dead to do it in. But it will probably be done in, somtime, by homo stupidimus.

  • Victor Mageto

    In Africa we have plenty trees older than 5k years. Come around and see them

  • Steven Woolley

    I have also tweeted a similar comment,but I wish to mention that there is a tree in Fortingall village in Scotland which is reputedly up to 4000 yrs of age…

  • Judit Huerta

    Maybe, it would be better if you studied a little place in Ulldecona, Tarragona ( in the South of Catalonia, Spain) which has some olives trees dated with more than one thousand years

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