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The oldest in the world

(1) De Candolle considers the deciduous cypress of Chapultepec, in Mexico, one of the oldest trees in the world.

(2) The chestnut-trees on Mount Etna, and the Oriental plane-tree in the valley of Bujukdere, near Constantinople, are supposed to be of about the same age.

(3) The Rev. W. Tuckwell says the “oldest tree in the world is the Soma cypress of Lombardy. It was forty years old when Christ was born.”

Trees of a patriarchal age.

(1) Damorey’s Oak, Dorsetshire, 2,000 years old. Blown down in 1703.

(2) The great Oak of Saintes, in the department of Charente Inférieure, is from 1,800 to 2,000 years old.

(3) The Winfarthing Oak, Norfolk, and the Bentley Oak were 700 years old at the time of the Conquest.

(4) Cowthorpe Oak, near Wetherby, Yorkshire, according to Professor Burnet, is 1,600 years old.

(5) William the Conqueror’s Oak, Windsor Great Park, is at least 1,200 years old.

(6) The Bull Oak, Wedgenock Park, and the Plestor Oak, Colborne, were in existence at the time of the Conquest.

(7) The Oak of the Partisans, in the forest of Parey, St. Ouen, is above 650 years old. Wallace’s Oak, at Ellersley, near Paisley, was probably fifty years older. Blown down in 1859.

(8) Owen Glendower’s Oak, Shelton, near Shrewsbury, is so called because that chieftain witnessed from its branches the battle between Henry IV. and Harry Percy, in 1403. Other famous oaks are those called The Twelve Apostles and The Four Evangelists.

(9) In the Dukeries, Nottinghamshire, are some oaks of memorable age and renown: (a) In the Duke of Portland’s Park is an oak called Robin Hood’s Larder. It is only a shell, held together with strong iron braces.

The Parliament Oak, Clipston, Notts, is said to be above 1,000 years old. We are told that Edward I., hunting in Sherwood Forest, was informed of the Welsh revolt, and summoned a “parliament” of his barons under this oak, and it was agreed to make war of extermination on Wales. Others say it was under this tree that King John assembled his barons and decreed the execution of Prince Arthur. The Parliament Oak is split into two distinct trees, and though both the trunks are hollow, they are both covered with foliage and acorns atop during the season.

The Major Oak, in the park of Lord Manvers, is a veritable giant. In the hollow trunk fifteen persons of ordinary size may find standing room. At its base it measures 90 feet, and at 5 feet from the ground about 35 feet. Its head covers a circumference of 270 yards.

Another venerable oak (some say 1,500 years old) is Greendale Oak, about half a mile from Welbeck Abbey. It is a mere ruin supported by props and chains. It has a passage through the bole large enough to admit three horsemen abreast, and a coach-and-four has been driven through it.

The Seven Sisters Oak, in the same vicinity, is so called because the trunk was composed of seven stems. It still stands, but in a very dilapidated state.

II. Yews.

(1) Of Braburn, in Kent, according to De Candolle, is 3,000 years old.

(2) The Scotch yew at Fortingal, in Perthshire, is between 2,500 and 3,000 years.

(3) Of Darley churchyard, Derbyshire, about 2,050 years.

(4) Of Crowhurst, Surrey, about 1,400.

(5) The three at Fountains Abbey, in Yorkshire, at least 1,200 years. Beneath these trees the founders of the abbey held their council in 1132.

(6) The yew grove of Norbury Park, Surrey, was standing in the time of the Druids.

(7) The yew-trees at Kingsley Bottom, near Chichester, were standing when the sea-kings landed on the Sussex coast.

(8) The yew-tree of Harlington churchyard, Middlesex, is above 850 years old.

(9) That at Ankerwyke House, near Staines, was noted when Magna Charta was signed in 1215, and it was the trysting tree for Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn.

III. Miscellaneous.

(1) The eight olive-trees on the Mount of Olives were flourishing 800 years ago, when the Turks took Jerusalem.

(2) The lime-tree in the Grisons is upwards of 590 years old.

⁂ The spruce will reach to the age of 1,200 years.

The poet’s tree. A tree grows over the tomb of Tan-Sein, a musician of incomparable skill at the court of Akbar, and it is said that whoever chews a leaf of this tree will have extraordinary melody of voice. (W. Hunter.)

“His voice was as sweet as if he had chewed the leaves of that enchanted tree which grows over she comb of the musician Tan-Sein.”—Moore: Lalla Rookh.

The singing tree. Each leaf was a mouth, and every leaf joined in concert. (Arabian Nights.)

He is altogether up the tree. Quite out of the swim, nowhere in the competition list.

Up a tree. In a difficulty, in a mess. It is said that Spurgeon used to practise his students in extempore preaching, and that one of his young men, on reaching the desk and opening the note containing his text, read the single word “Zacchæus” as his text. He thought a minute or two, and then delivered himself thus:—“Zacchæus was a little man, so am I; Zacchæus was up a tree, so am I; Zacchæus made haste and came down, and so do I.”


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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Travels in the Blue
Traveller’s Licence
Tre, Pol, Pen
Treacle [tree-kl]
Treading on One’s Corns
Treasury of Sciences
Tree of Buddha (The)
Tree of Knowledge (The)
Tree of Liberty
Tree of Life

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Up a Tree