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Old Trees in The Netherlands and Western Europe

The Netherlands 2

Big trees around my home-town Zutphen - b

The Big Oak of Verwolde

The Big Tree (Dutch: De Dikke Boom) on the nice Estate of Verwolde, near the village of Laren, some 17 kilometer (10½ miles) from Zutphen, is one of the best known trees of the Netherlands. It is the biggest Oak of this country, 770 cm ( 25¼ feet) in circumference at breast height and 25 m (82 feet) tall. Several seignposts and a special path lead to this imposing veteran.

As for many old oaks the trunk of this tree is hollow. In 1767 it must have been still massive: a Miller offered 275 florins for the tree to make two axles for a mill. Fortunately the Baron of Verwolde left the tree standing. At that time it was measured to be 4,6 metre in girth: a comparable oak nearby, called Oom Fred (Uncle Fred) now measuring 5 m was planted in 1791, so the older tree will have been around 200 years in 1767 and now around 430 - 440 years. Compared to some of the champion oaks of surrounding countries wich we will meet the tree is not extremely old or big.

Beech and Plane at Laag Keppel

Some 20 kilometers south of Zutphen stands the beautiful Castle of Laag Keppel. In the Park two big trees can be seen. The Purple Beech is among the largest in girth of Holland: 713 cm ( 23½ feet). It was planted around 1780, when the park was renovated. As these figures show Beeches grow a lot faster than Common Oaks, but they rarely become much older than 250 - 300 years, while they are vurnerable to attacks by fungi and woodrot.

In this case we could see this happen earlier than I hoped when I wrote the tekst above in december 2000: here you see the same tree while being cut down at april 14th 2003. The tree had lost a few large limbs recently and its top had died. The Baron was afraid of injuries by falling branches: the Beech was standing on the lawn in front of the castle. This is often used for parties as well as a playgrond for children. The hollow trunk was full of mushrooms. 

The Plane-tree of Laag Keppel ( in England called a London Plane), standing very near to the now late Beech, is the biggest of its kind of Holland and must be one of the largest trees of any species of our country. It stands 37 metre ( 121 feet) tall, the crown spread is about the same and the girth is 824 cm ( 27 feet). It was also planted around 1780, so is growing quite fast. Planes seem to be able to reach ages of at least 300 years, and probably will grow even larger, as can be seen from some Planes in England: the tallest there is 48 m (158 feet) and the great Plane, planted at the Bishops Palace in Ely around 1680, has a height of 33,5 m (110 feet) with a girth of 920 cm ( 30¼ feet). In some decades this Plane of Laag Keppel could surpass its English relative: it grows quite vigorous, about 4 - 5 cm a year in circumference.

The London Plane, Platanus x acerifolia, is a hybrid between the European Oriėntal Plane and the American (Western) Plane, in the US also called Sycamore. Some individuals of both parent species have reached great sizes and ages: a huge Sycamore was killed by a storm in Worthington, Indiana-USA in 1924. It had been 45 m (150 feet) tall with a girth at 1,5m (5 feet) from the ground of 12,9 m (over 42 feet); it was 700 years old. George Washington described around 1790 some huge Sycamores, one of wich had a circumference of over 18 m (60 feet). Some Oriental Plane Trees in Greece and Turkey are thought to be over 1000 years of age. One of these grows in the village Krasi on Crete. In its shade around its huge bole with a girth of over 13m (over 43 feet) is the terrace of a restaurent.

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