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October 4, 2022

Destination Romania: Iasi – the county of centuries-old trees

A pear tree in Ciohorani – Iasi County, amazes locals and village visitors every year, as it still bears fruit at the venerable age of 607 years. ‘Sticea’s pear tree’, as it is known in the community, holds the record as the world’s oldest living fruit tree; another champion of resilience, the 674-year old hybrid lime tree at the Barnova Monastery, is just one of the about 400 centuries-old trees growing within the boundaries of Iasi County.
Dr. Eng. Ion Lupu of the ‘Anastasie Fatu’ Dendro-Ornamental Association, told Agerpres that Iasi County has 387 centuries-old trees, of which 224 were declared monument trees and 160 got the Romanian Academy’s approval and are proposed for such a classification. Most of them are oak or linden trees, according to Agerpres. ‘In Iasi city alone there are 240 trees, of which 218 are native species. The oldest tree in the County is the 674-year old hybrid lime tree at the Barnova Monastery – a worship site located just ten kilometers from Iasi. When the lime was about 57 years old and had about 14 centimetres in diameter, Iasi was mentioned as an urban settlement during the reign of Prince Alexander the Good (1408). The Barnova lime witnessed several foreign invasions, like the Tatar pillaging in 1513 or the incursion of the Poles in 1686. In 1603, during the reign of Ieremia Movila, this was the site of a monastery with a tiny wooden church. Between 1626 and 1629, under the reign of Miron Barnovschi Movila, when the lime was about 275 years of age and had 82- 83 centimetres in diameter, the church of the Barnova Monastery was built. Later on, between 1661 and 1666, Voivode Eustratie Dabija completed the construction of the monastery, where he was also buried at the side of his daughter. During the times of Prince Grigore Ghica II (1728), when the lime was about 377 years old and its trunk measured 113 centimeters in diameter, Iasi City was severely affected by an epidemic of fever. The voivode and his entire court sought refuge for a time at the Barnova Monastery, on which occasion the buildings in the precincts were restored and the enclosing stone wall was properly fitted out. That’s how the Barnova Monastery became the ‘capital’ of Moldova and the lime got to shelter the Prince and his family from the sun, in other words, it became a ‘princely’ lime tree,’ engineer Ion Lupu tells us.
The calculus of the age of the natural hybrid lime relies on the ‘average width of the annual growth ring’ which is 1.5 mm / y, a width extracted from three specialized works, one of which is based on the cross-sectioning and measuring of 1,650 lime trees in Romania in 1950.
Another centuries-old tree in the county of Iasi is ‘Sticea’s pear tree’ from Ciohorani which grows just a few kilometers from the famous legend-surrounded Ancuta’s Inn. A genuine and impressive natural monument at its 607 years of age, Sticea’s pear tree is considered to be the oldest living fruit tree in the world, declares the president of the ‘Anastasie Fatu’ Dendro-Ornamental Association in Iasi By the mid of the twentieth century, Sticea’s pear tree was growing at the western edge of Ciohorani. Overlooking the Moldova Valley, the ‘patriarch’ could be used as ‘observation post’ during the invasion of the Tatar hordes.
Also in Ciohorani there’s a lime tree aged a whopping 420 years.Far more famous are ‘Eminescu’s linden tree’ in the Copou Park of Iasi, which has been in place for 540 years – as the president of the ‘Anastasie Fatu’ Dendro-Ornament Association says, and the poet’s ‘odd numbered poplars’, which are aged on average 302 years. Also, a plane tree from Bucium Monastery is 450 years old, and a black poplar in Sculeni counts a respectable 410 years.
Just as visited is the group of white poplars in the Bucium area, on the outskirts of Iasi, which became known after Mihai Eminescu wrote the poem ‘Down Where the Lonely Poplars Grow’, published in August-September 1883 and then in the volume of Poems (1884). In 1973, the poplars still left were declared monuments. Over the time, the trees were either struck by the lightning or dried out and today there are only 15 of them. The average age of the group is 302 years and ranges between 233 years and 371 years. ‘Unfortunately, their trunks are almost entirely destroyed by xylophagous fungi, the healthy wood at the trunk periphery is only seven centimeters thick. The poplars fall or break under the power of wind gusts the frequency of which approaches the frequency of the trees, so that they get into resonance, like the bow drawn against the violin, and simply fall,’ Eng. Ion Lupu says sadly.
Declared a natural monument and monument of history, one of the silent witnesses of Moldavia’s Union with Wallachia is the chestnut of Visan. In the shadow of the now 250-year old tree, unionists Mihail Kogalniceanu, Vasile Alecsandri, Costache Negri, Dimitrie Ralet, Constantin Hurmuzachi, Petre Mavrogheni, Archimandrite Neofit Scriban, Costachi Rolla and Emilian Florescu met in the yard of the home of General Chersin, commander of the military regiment garrisoned on Copou Hill to plot in the greatest secrecy, under the crown of the blooming chestnut, the Union of the Romanian Principalities.

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