Spain: 500 year old tree stirs up a passionate new tree protection culture

For nearly 500 years, its leafy boughs have sheltered the townsfolk of
Pareja from the torrid Spanish sun. Its curves are so gentle, so
womanly, that they even earned a tribute in a book by Spanish Nobel
prize-winning author Camilo José Cela. But, in the 1980s, the “Lady
Elm Tree of Pareja”, in the Spanish heartland region of Alcarria,
faced almost certain death by a fungus that wiped out nearly 90% of
the country’s other elms.

This week, the town hall of Pareja and its
600 inhabitants, who carefully treated the lady elm with fungicide,
pruned and eliminated dry leaves to prevent infection, and saved the
tree, were rewarded with €3,000 (£2,875) to continue its care as part
of the first Tree of the Year awards. The beloved elm, known in
Spanish as La Olma de Pareja, is one of a number of winners of the
contest designed to raise environmental awareness in Spain, and
protect emblematic trees and forests from the development that has
covered the countryside with golf courses and flats. “We need to
create an urban culture that understands the social importance of
trees and forests,” said Susana Dominguez Lerena, president of Forests
Without Borders, the non-profit group that sponsored the tree contest.
Spain does not have a national register of ancient, emblematic trees,
or any law to protect them, environmentalists say. In his 1946
travelogue, Journey to the Alcarria, Cela comes upon La Olma de Pareja
in the town’s main square, next to a fountain. “They call it a lady
oak,” he wrote, “because it is rounded, full-bodied, matriarchal, an
elm as old perhaps as the oldest stone in the town.” The other contest
winners include a 1,000-year-old evergreen in northern Asturias, and a
gigantic English oak, known as the Oak of Valentìn, in the town of
Tineo, also in Asturias.

Posted via email from Deane’s posterous

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