The famous California tree which has allowed generations of tourists to walk through its centre has fallen down at last.
Sad news came out of California early on Tuesday morning: a fierce storm at the weekend toppled the famous giant sequoia with a tunnel running through the centre.
The annual storm known as the Pineapple Express, combined with floodwater and trunk and root decay, took down the 1,000-year-old tree at Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Properly known as the ‘Pioneer Cabin Tree’, this mighty feat of nature was a true icon. 100 feet tall (about two-thirds the height of Nelson’s Column) and 22ft across, it had a hole carved through the centre through which generations of tourists have driven through.
The tunnel through the tree was in itself ancient: it was carved out in the 1880s after lightning strikes had previously hollowed out much of the trunk.
The tree won’t be cleared away, according to park staff: “It will most likely remain where it fell,” they said in a statement, “providing habitat for many creatures and slowly decomposing to improve the soil for future sequoias.”
The world’s most famous trees
There is no doubt that the tree was one of the most famous in the world; many other fine, rate trees still survive.
The ‘General Sherman’ tree in California (pictured on the right) is still standing, for example. It is believed to be the largest in the world by volume, at 275ft high and 100ft in circumference around the base. That’s only a little shorter than Big Ben.
Back in Europe, there’s another equally marvellous tree in Sweden: Old Tjikko. It’s a Norway Spruce that was once thought to be the oldest individual tree in the world, at 9,550 years. That is something of a fudged number, however: it’s actually just part of a plant which has survived that long. The tree trunk currently referred to as Old Tjikko is actually only a few hundred years old.
That’s nothing compared to Methuselah, in California’s White Mountains, which is closing in on its 5,000th birthday. It was long believed to be the oldest tree in the world, but now a nearby pretender has claimed that crown instead. It’s a sad day for the oldest chap in the nursing home has their proud record taken by a new inmate, eh?
Britain’s most famous trees
Britain has plenty of its own famous trees, of course – and the nice people at Forest Holidays took a few minutes to send us a list of their favourites.
Take the Birnam Oak, for example. This handsome fellow is one of the oldest trees in Birnam Wood, so famous that it was actually immortalised by Shakespeare in Macbeth 400 years ago.
Sherwood Forest also has a wonderful old oak which is part of national culture: the cavernous Major Oak has a hollow which legend tells was the secret hideout of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
Then, there’s the tree which arguably changed the world as we know it: the Flower of Kent tree. Why is it so famous? Simply for this: the story goes that this is the tree under which Isaac Newton was sitting when an apple fell, hitting him on the head and giving him the revelation about the laws of gravity.
Of course, even a cursory glance will tell you that this tree is rather less than 350 years old. But this is not an individual tree we’re talking about: it’s a type of tree, a cooking apple cultivar grown from the famous apple itself. Newton’s fame meant that the apple tree spread across Britain and beyond – all of which were descended from a single tree at Newton’s home, Woolsthorpe Manor.