And the answer: Wales.
In Conwy, Wales, the Llangernyw tree was recently discovered to be around 5,000 years old. The impressive Yew tree is situated in a churchyard with sprawling, arch-like trunks that give the appearance of many trees within itself. The United Kingdom has some of the most ancient trees and forests in all of Europe.
If it’s hard to imagine a small sapling becoming a towering, ancient tree, that’s because such transformations only can occur over hundreds upon hundreds of years. Somewhat like humans, tree aging is broken down into four stages: formative, full to late maturity, and ancient. Yet, these metrics vary with the species of tree and the environment in which it exists. The longer-living Yew tree isn’t considered ancient until around 800 to 900 years old, while shorter-lived species such as beech trees are considered to be ancient from 225 years onwards.
In the UK, ancient trees create habitats for many different species and types of organisms. Fungi grow in tree trunks and roots, invertebrates feed on decaying wood, and a whole host of animals—including bats, owls, and pine martens—make their homes in cavities that open as trees age. These habitats develop as a tree grows, and as a result, such wildlife environments are irreplicable if trees are destroyed.
Did you know?
It’s National Tree Week in the United Kingdom! Although the Llangernyw tree is the oldest in the UK, a number of other golden oldies have spread their roots in the region. Most notably, the Ankerwycke Yew in Berkshire is said to have borne witness to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, and served as a meeting place for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in the 1530s! Learn more about how to get involved with their protection efforts here.