An English oak, Quercus robur, living on a football (soccer) field in Estonia has won the European Tree of the Year award with nearly 60,000 votes! The Estonian tree earned 59, 836 votes, approximately one third of the total 185,000 votes cast in this year’s contest. This 150 year old specimen stands in a soccer field in Orissaare, Saaremaa, Estonia, where it is at the heart of the community. Prior to 1951 it was adjacent to a small sporting area, but when it was expanded the tree ended up smack in the middle of the field, forcing players to work around it. There is a local legend that Joseph Stalin attempted, at one time, to remove the oak tree using cables which proceeded to break over and over again. Marks from cables can still be seen today.
The European Tree of the Year contest began in 2011, inspired by a popular contest put on for many years in the Czech Republic by the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation. The European round of the contest pits national winners against each other. The purpose of these contests is to highlight the cultural and natural heritage of mature, specimen trees and cultivate an understanding of the importance of care and preservation. They are trying to shift the focus from quantifying a tree’s value by its age, size and beauty but rather for its story and connection to the community. Each year hundreds of thousands of people participate in the contest, and competing countries have increased from 5 to 14.
The other trees that competed in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest are by no means undeserving, they include:
The “Major Oak”, which was the highest scoring tree in the United Kingdom, is thought to be 800-1,000 years old and is located in Sherwood Forest Country Park and is aptly associated with Robin Hood. The Major Oak received 9,941 votes.
Coming in 9th in the contest was Scotland’s “Lady’s Tree”, a 100-year-old Scotch pine living in the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes reserve, near Dunkeld, Perthshire. The pine has been home to a famous osprey for about 25 years and received 4,193 votes.
Another Scotch pine topped the list at 10th, Wale’s “Lonely Tree” had stood at the top of a hill watching over the town of Llanfyllin, Powys for 200 years until it blew over last April. The tree still received 1,548 votes.
All of the competing trees will join Europe’s Trail of Trees which will allow people to access more information about this year’s and preceding year;s contestants and the contest itself.