The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Myth, tradition, inspiration, culture, religion and many other aspects of human life are written into the rings of history within a tree's trunk. Trees would do just fine if humans ceased to exist—but humans would most definitely not survive without trees. They reduce carbon dioxide while producing oxygen, moderate ecosystems, prevent erosion, and provide shelter, building materials, energy and even nutrition. They are simply amazing.
In partnership with NBCUniversal's Green is Universal program and the Arbor Day Foundation, we bring you a breathtaking (or rather, breath-giving) tree gallery. When you share this gallery and use #ShareATree, you're helping the Arbor Day Foundation plant real trees. For every 25,000 shares, NBCUniversal will donate $5,000 to the Arbor Day Foundation, up to $25,000.
Share this awesome gallery and make our planet a little greener.
This showstopping tree looks like it was painted by a graffiti artist, but its bold colors are derived from the natural shedding of bark. Layers of bark peel away at different times of the year, revealing undertones ranging from bright green to orange. These beauties can be found all over the world but mainly in the South Pacific in tree plantations, where the eucalyptus' pulpwood is used to make paper. The tree grows six feet wide and more than a hundred feet tall and it's photogenic, to boot.
Photo credit: Libero
The Tree of Life
Because of trees' nearly innumerable benefits, people throughout time have attributed greater meaning to them. A common motif in various cultures and religions is that of the Tree of Life. Depending on where you look, the Tree of Life offers the threshold between life and death (Egypt), grants immortality once every 3,000 years (China) or supports and connects the underworld, the earth and the stars (Mesoamerica).
The Tree of Life pictured here is found in the middle of a desert in Bahrain, miles from any other living organism or source of water. It is a 400-year-old mesquite, whose roots can grow to more than 160 feet, making it resilient in arid climates. While some like to think it is the tree of good and evil mentioned in the Bible, locals attribute other spiritual powers to it and have their own occult practices surrounding it.
Whatever the case may be, astounding trees like this cause legends to flourish and attract visitors from around the world to catch a glimpse of their leafy awesomeness.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Ever heard of the Buddha? Yeah, well, this fig tree in Bodh Gaya, India, is believed to be the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment approximately 2,500 years ago. According to Buddhist texts, right after the Buddha achieved enlightenment, he gazed up at the tree in gratitude with unblinking eyes for an entire week. Talk about a staring contest.
Even during the lifetime of the Buddha the Bodhi Tree was seen as a sacred shrine by King Asoka, who held a festival every year in its honor. However, his queen was what some would call "the jealous type" and had it killed by Mandu thorns. But the Bodhi Tree had the last laugh when it regrew in the same spot and had a magnificent temple built next to it. Even today, the tree is the most important of four Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
Photo: Ken Wieand / Flickr
Depending on your age, you may think of Robin Hood as a dastardly fox, a witty Cary Elwes or a pouty Russell Crowe. But the locals of Edwinstone, in the heart of the Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England, don't really care what your image of him is. Robin Hood has been an important folk figure to them since the medieval period, long before movies were invented.
Some records portray him as a farmer, while others identify him as a wealthy man whose lands were wrongfully taken from him, forcing him to become an outlaw. Whatever Robin Hood's origins, the Major Oak tree is fabled to be the shelter in which he and his Merry Men slept after a long day's work of "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor."
Photo credit: Philip Wallbank / Geograph
While it may look like Baobab trees are shaped into their odd forms by imaginative horticulturists, the only hand of manipulation here is evolution. These large trees can grow up to 50 feet tall and are the natural equivalent of water towers. The trees are native to arid regions such as mainland Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar and Australia and have been used in dry seasons for the water supplies stored in hollows in the trees. The white powder in their seed pods can be used as food and their leaves have medicinal purposes.
Photo credit: iStock
What possible connection could a tree in the capital city of Sierra Leone have to the American Revolutionary War? Well, just as the Americans won independence from Great Britain, a group of African American slaves won their freedom by fighting for the British during the war.
Legend has it that the newly freed slaves landed on the shore, walked up to the giant tree and circled around it, giving thanks for their deliverance to a free land. On March 11, 1792, they founded Freetown and today it is the capital city of Sierra Leone. The Cotton Tree stands directly in front of Freetown's Supreme Court building.
Photo credit: Christian Trede / Wikimedia
Anne Frank Tree
This horse chestnut in Amsterdam provided a glimmer of beauty to Anne Frank when she needed it most. In The Diary of a Young Girl, Frank's book about the time she and her family spent hiding from the Nazis during World War II, she describes the tree:
"Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy."
The iconic tree was blown down by high winds during a storm on Aug. 23, 2010, but it missed the historic annex in which Frank and her family stayed.
Photo credit: Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect
Methuselah is like the estranged grandfather that no one in your family talks about. It is the oldest known living tree on the planet, but its location will not be revealed.
This is because an older tree, nicknamed Prometheus, was accidentally cut down in 1964. At 4,843 years old, the bristlecone pine is worth protecting, even if it means anonymity.
Photo credit: Rick Goldwasser / Flickr
El Árbol del Tule
With a bit of imagination, animals, goblins and monsters can be seen trapped in this tree's gnarly trunk, and although the trunk has the look of multiple trees fused together, it is just one amazing tree. El Árbol del Tule or the Tree of Tule, towers over Santa María del Tule, a small church in Oaxaca, Mexico. The massive Montezuma cypress may be the biggest—as in widest—tree on the planet. The circumference of the trunk spans 170 feet and the tree weighs more than 500 tons. At approximately 2,000 years old (legend has it that it was planted by an Aztec storm god), this massive tree is among the eldest in the world.
Photo credit: Cezzie901 / Flickr
Reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.