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Forest Bathing

Which Tree is the True King of the Forest?

Placing a single tree above all others in the forest is no easy task. There are many trees to select from and so many deserving members in the forest community. Each is unique in its character, and each has an interesting history and folklore about it.

While the argument can rage back and forth over which tree best deserves this auspicious title, every deserving tree is undeniably marvelous. Each has characteristics that set them apart and gives a good reason for making them rightful regents over their wooded domain.

king of forest The Banyan, Ficus benghalensis

The mighty banyan is the national tree of India and has been called the king of the forest for centuries throughout Southeast Asia. Also called “banyan,” this sacred tree receives a lot of respect in local Hindu tradition and can often be found growing near places of worship. The sprawling boughs of the banyan have often been used by Indians as shelter from the sweltering heat of the region, and are revered for this as well.

According to ancient Indian folklore, Lord Krishna came to rest within the sacred banyan leaf and resides there still as a Hindu deity. The largest banyan tree in existence today is simply called the Great Banyan Tree and is estimated to be over 250 years old because it has been mentioned in 19th-century records.

The Oak, Genus Quercus King of Forest

No other tree is so well-known in human industry and culture as the mighty oak. These grand old trees of the forest have been the inspiration for symphonies, poems, epic tales, and legends. The Druids of Celtic lore regarded the oak as a god and many of their rites and rituals were performed in sacred oak groves. The word “Druid” comes from the ancient Celtic word for Oak, “duir.”

The oak has been associated with gods in Norse, Greek and Roman mythologies, possibly because it is known to be struck by lightning often and has the capacity to survive and thrive still. According to some legends, Munga, one of the 5 magic trees in Ireland, was an oak. Munga was lovingly chopped down by pagan bards and poets to save the tree the humiliation of falling into the hands of Christian invaders.

 width= The Norway Spruce, Picea abies

While some trees are huge and some trees are well-known by many people, one kind of tree has the right to seniority. Old Tjikko is the oldest Norway spruce and the oldest known tree. It began its life as a spruce sapling in the mountains of Western Scandinavia about ten thousand years ago. This means that Old Tjikko was a mere sapling when humans began to think about agriculture and a healthy young tree when the Pyramids of Giza were completed, and it still is thriving today! 1

Moctezuma Cypress, Taxodium mucronatum King of Forest

9 kilometers east of the Mexican city of Oaxaca, in the town of Santa Maria, there is an ancient Moctezuma cypress named Arbol de Tule with a circumference of over 140 feet. This makes it the widest tree in the world, even before the giant sequoia. Local legends say the tree was planted 1400 years ago by an ancient sage who made a pact with Ehecatl, the god of the wind. The tree has been sacred in the area since time immemorial. Arbol de Tule and its brothers are very stout but very regal trees in Mexico. 2

 width= Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens

At 380 feet, Hyperion is the world’s tallest living thing. Hyperion is a towering individual in a forest of Coastal redwoods that are all very tall. Hyperion would be even taller if it hadn’t been for local woodpeckers carving up the upper echelons of the tree’s crown. This tree and all his kin are magnificent examples of the kingliness of the forest and all the amazing trees that live in it. 3

There are many other deserving trees

There is also pine, fir, maple, cedar, sandalwood and so many other wooded wonders waiting to share their bounty with beasts and humans alike.

Photo Credits: TharinKaewkanya/, TimothyDKramp/, MariuszS.Jurgielewicz/, Belyay/, JakubKorczyk/

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