The European Tree of the Year


in International Campaigns, Love Trees

The Czech Republic was the centre of the first heartland of the Celts, it’s history and culture is intertwined with forests and trees. Many of its rural churches and homes are made completely from timber and Czech engineering with wood has produced intricate creations to rival any modern invention, particularly toys. Since the fall of the iron curtain the Czech land industry sector was quick to take its rightful place at the forefront of European land management and research.

Czech maps have a symbol rare in other countries, they highlight memorable trees, allowing visitors and locals alike to visit ancient and venerable trees. A small thing, but a quick and easy way to highlight trees to all.

Memorable Tree sign

It is no surprise then that the European Tree of the Year Awards are hosted by the Czech’s. Here the co-ordinator for both the Czech Tree of the year and the European tree of the year award, Hana Rambouskova Environmentalist with the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation, writes exclusively for SOW




In the Czech Republic it is like everywhere else – more and more green spaces are being turned into parking lots and supermarkets, traditional tree avenues are a long-lasting source of disputes among the environmentalists, road builders and keepers. Very often we feel that a people’s relationship to trees in their neighbourhood is becoming less and less important. However, we still feel a strong urge to protect trees as heritage from previous generations and legacy for future ones. How did the concept of memorable trees protected by the state evolve in the Czech Republic?

Josefov, Tree of the Year Finalist - 2008

Protecting trees goes hand in hand with admiring them. Through the ancient times, in Central Europe the trees were worshipped by the Celts, Germans and Slavs. One of the Czech words for forestháj is very similar and related to our word for to protect – hájit. After the Christianisation at the end of the 9th Century, many old pagan traditions connected to trees as well as many worshipped trees were “adopted” by the new religion. That is why during Easter the tradition up to these days is to whip girls and women with willow branches hoping that the power of the trees in the spring will transfer to them. In the Middle Ages, pictures or statuettes of saints started to “miraculously” appear on or near many trees worshiped by pagans – thus it was alright to keep on worshiping them.

Modern concept of the protecting of trees started evolving in the 19th Century, before that the protection of trees was mostly connected to the protection of forests. The new approach was connected with the activities of beautification societies and other clubs and was voluntary; it was the people not the state who protected memorable trees.

Lime in Kotel, Tree of the Year finalist in 2010

The institute of a “memorable tree” started developing after WWI although it was flawed in the 20’s and 30’s. Codification in 1959 pushed for even better protection, now memorable trees are protected under the law of nature and landscape protection. This law was accepted in 1992 within the optimistic wave in society, three years after the Velvet Revolution. It is still seen as extremely progressive.

Trees, groups of trees and tree avenues can be declared “memorable trees” by the state if they are of exceptional age, growth, and species or if there is a remarkable story or a legend connected to them. Such trees then enjoy protection, it is forbidden to harm them in any way or to disturb their natural evolvement. Any intervention (mainly tree surgery operations) is only possible with the consent of nature protection offices which can guarantee the quality of such treatment. In the Czech Republic there is almost 3,995 memorable trees growing alone and other over 21,000 trees growing in groups, a total of 25,000 trees.

Oak tree in Nov‚ Hrady, Tree of the Year finalist in 2011

Ten years ago the ‘Environmental Partnership’, a Czech foundation supporting protection of nature, started organizing the Tree of the Year contest. In this contest people are looking for the tree with the strongest story that can hold the community together. In 2010, the Foundation started spreading the idea and now we have the contest in 7 European countries – Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and France. If you want to read some touching and strong stories of trees not only in Central Europe, you can read the stories on, when the voting starts next year in February.


European Tree of the Year facebook page



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Lesley December 16, 2011 at 13:07

The European Tree of the Year competition is such a simple idea to get the various attributes of trees into the public consciousness. Are ‘Save Our Woods’ going to co-ordinate a UK entry? Or maybe another organisation could. Thank you for sharing more on the European angle, which rarely gets any mention elsewhere. With the common threats we all face to our trees both by development pressures through to diseases across national boundaries it is time to ignore political and financial differences and concentrate on a shared resource.

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