Czech European Tree of the Year may be much older than previously thought

Chudobín pine, photo: Ladislav Stalmach, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Czech pine from the village of Chudobín, which was voted European Tree of the Year 2020, may be much older than previously thought. Experts say the remarkable tree, previously estimated to be 350 years old, could actually be as old as half a millenium.

The Scots pine from Chudobín, known as 'Guardian of the Flooded Village', made international headlines earlier this year after being voted European Tree of The Year.

Chudobín pine, photo: Milan Peňáz, CC BY-SA 4.0

The tree, growing on the rocky headland of the water reservoir known as Vír, was once part of a larger forest. It was left isolated after the area was flooded during the construction of a dam in the 1950s. According to a legend, a devil sat under the pine in the night and played the violin, warding off intruders.

The Morava waterway company, which is in charge of the dam, recently invited experts to analyse the tree’s condition and propose measures to protect it for the future.

Jaroslav Kolařík is an arborist from the company Safe Trees:

“My aim was to describe exactly how the tree reacts to biomechanical forces, whether there is not a risk of uprooting or breaking.

“I used a method called acoustic tomography, which is able to analyse not only the shape of the tree and the visual marks, but the inside of the stem as well.”

2019 Tree of the Year Czech Republic - Guardian of the Flooded Village (Chudobínská borovice)

Based on the preliminary results of the analysis, Mr Kolařík is convinced the tree is much older than the estimated 350 years. However, due to the internal cavity in the tree, experts will never be able to determine its precise age, he explains.

“There is no way to estimate the exact age of the tree, because there is a missing part of the stem within. Even if we used some invasive methods, we would never be able to tell the age precisely.

“The previous estimate was done by comparing the tree to other trees growing in the nearby forest. But when you see the extreme growing conditions, I am pretty sure this specimen grew much slower, so my estimate is somewhere between 400 and 500 years.”

While examining the Chudobín pine, Mr Kolařík discovered fungi growing inside the stem. While this can pose a certain threat to the ancient tree, he says its presence is not that uncommon.

“The tree is kind of ill, but for a tree of this age it is pretty normal. So, at this moment, we are analysing the biomechanical stability of the tree using a method which calculates the force of the wind on the crown and recalculates it into the stability of the individual sections of the stem.

“Based on this information we will propose some management plan for the tree so as to preserve it for as long as possible. But I would say the tree can be there for years even with the fungus in the stem.”