Only a few weeks ago a giant beech tree was voted the most beautiful tree in the Czech Republic. The competition proved unexpectedly successful. Almost thirty thousand people have voted for their favourite tree. Evidently Czechs have a special relationship to their trees.
The Czech Republic has a list of the most significant trees, which receive special treatment. The list is administrated by the Agency of Nature and Landscape Protection and includes almost 5,000 records - that is about 16,000 trees. The tradition of listing trees in order to ensure their protection goes back to the nineteenth century. Miloslav Res, who is responsible for the list, explains why is it important to protect listed trees.
"The trees are important in terms of their ecological value. A tree is a living organism, which creates an ecosystem for other plants and animals. Of course trees are also valuable for science and there is a great variety of trees. They have cultural and historic value and there is also an educational and ethical aspect to this list, because it can teach people to respect nature."
Most of the listed trees are lime trees and oaks. Oak used to be the most important tree for the old Slavic tribes. But then, in the nineteenth century Czech poet Jan Kolar started to glorify lime trees in his poems; thanks to him, the lime tree became a national symbol instead of the oak. Among the more interesting trees on the list is the biggest in Prague, a plane tree - which Mr Res points out - can even be seen from Charles Bridge. On the list you can find also some exotic trees such as sequoia, which comes from North America.
Bohumil Res is a botanist, but in putting together the list, he also has to research historic and cultural aspects of the trees. A few years ago, his colleagues published a book telling the stories of Czech trees. It tells the story of the tree with the biggest trunk in the Czech Republic, an east Bohemian lime tree which is some four metres in diameter. In the hollow of the trunk there would be enough space for a table and four chairs. Here's a quotation.
"The legend goes that at midnight the tree is haunted. The reason is supposed to be a boy, who fell into the hollow of the tree and being unable to get out died there. The ghost disappeared at the beginning of the twentieth century when the trunk broke and the hollow opened."
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