The oldest arboreal tree in the old continent is in Italy, more precisely in the Pollino National Park. The precise coordinates, however, have not yet been revealed; it is known that it is 2000 meters high.
It is a loricate pine whose seeds ended up in the soil of the Pollino Park 1230 years ago. And it began to sprout in the eighth century and since then it has never stopped growing. Even today, with twelve centuries of age, the tree continues to grow.
How the age of the oldest tree in Europe was detected
The precise dating of the ancestor of all European trees was possible thanks to new technologies. In particular, the researchers, led by Dr. Gianluca Piovesan of the University of Tuscia, have developed an innovative technique, the results of which were published last year on Ecology: Ecological Society of America. They combined dendrochronology (a dating method that correlates the annual growth of centuries-old trees with climatic factors) and radiocarbon dating. This discovery has shown that some plants are able to adapt to very extreme climate changes. And the study of the trunk and its growth can help to understand how the flora responds to changes. Furthermore, analyzing centuries-old trees also serves to predict what impact global warming has on, for example, ecosystems.
The team, after establishing the age of the loricate pine, also baptized it with an all-Italian name. It is called Italus, in honor of the king of Enotria who ruled the area of southern Italy in a period that spanned the Bronze and Iron Ages. Italus was born in Italy but a millennium before Italy itself. It lived through the Middle Ages, the Risorgimento and the Baroque. Itwitnessed the unity of Italy and the two world wars. It was when present-day Italy had a feudal system, when it was a monarchy and when it became a republic. And who knows in how many other historical periods it will be present. We hope as long as possible.
The peers of the oldest tree in Europe
The second oldest tree in the old continent is always a pine tree, however, found in northern Greece. It is around 1075 years old and was discovered by Professor Oliver Konter of the University of Mainz. Until the discovery of Italus and the introduction of new technologies it was believed that the oldest tree in Europe was a Sardinian olive tree. It was assumed that it was, indeed, 4000 years old.
But subsequent studies based particularly on radiocarbon, much more reliable than the almost impossible counting of circles on the trunk of the olive trees often empty inside, dismantled this hypothesis. The radiocarbon technique was used by Dr. Mauro Bernabei on the oldest olive trees in the world: the olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane, in Jerusalem. There he identified plants with about 1100 years of age.