The Wisest and Oldest Trees Around the World

All of the trees have a remarkable story to tell.

Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

In their beautiful new book, , landscape photographers Diane Cook and Len Jenshel showcase a gorgeous selection of some of the world's oldest and wisest trees. All of these wonderful trees have a remarkable story to tell us and have inspired change in humanity. Diane and Len spent two years travelling the globe to five different continents to photograph the 57 extraordinary trees, all of which have their own historic and cultural significance.

Here are eight of the most incredible trees from by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, introduction by Verlyn Klinkenborg.

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Shitala's Tree in India
Neem Tree, sacred tree shrine, Nanghan Bir Baba Temple, Bhadaini district, Varanasi (Benares), Uttar Pradesh, India.  The Neem tree is adorned with ornate red cloth and facemask that honors the Goddess Shitala.  As a sign of respect to the Goddess, the residents of Bhadaini built a temple around their sacred tree. The Neem, like the Pipal Tree, has a long history of veneration in India, as evidenced by art circa 2500 B.C., found in the Indus Valley.  The Neem Tree (Azadirachta Indica) is in the mahogany family, and is a fast growing, drought-resistant tree.  It is a tree with immense medicinal value, and is often referred to as “the village pharmacy”.  Various parts of the tree are used to treat or prevent illnesses such as malaria and diabetes – and the leaves are used to prevent insect infestations.  Most worship the Neem as the goddess, Shitala - the goddess of good fortune.  Shitala means the “Cool One”, and is aptly named for her protection from dangerous high fevers from smallpox, malaria, and chicken pox, among others.  The tree is either viewed as the residence of the goddess or an embodiment of her.  Worshippers often adorn the tree with an ornate red cloth and facemask, to enhance their relationship with the tree as a goddess.

Shitala is a very special tree, with this image being chosen as one of the "Best Photos of 2017" by National Geographic. In Hinduism, it is believed that the goddess Shitala is embodied in the neem , which can cure disease. This one can be found in the Nanghan Bir Baba Temple.

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9/11 Survivor Tree in New York
Wise Trees - 9:11 Survivor Tree

The Callery pear tree became the urban tree of choice in New York in the 1950s and one in particular was planted in Liberty Plaza in New York. During the rescue mission after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, this tree was found under the rubble of the Twin Towers. It was reduced to a burnt trunk but survived and nursed back to full health, acting as a wonderful symbol of resilience.

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Bunut Bolong in West Bali, Indonesia
Wise Trees - Bunut Bolong

This sacred banyan tree is spectacular. It has a road running straight through its trunk. A hole was carved into the base of the trunk and prayed for the tree's forgiveness. Bunut Bolong is still thriving.

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Gion Weeping Cherry in Japan
 Wise Trees - Gion Weeping Cherry

As part of an annual springtime tradition in Japan, people head out to view the beautiful cherry tree blossoms. But none are more beautiful than the 80-year-old higan cherry tree in Maruyama Park in Kyoto, which is lit up all night long.

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Luna in California
Wise Trees - Luna

This coastal redwood became an international symbol of conservation when volunteer Julia Butterfly Hill staged sit-ins along with her fellow environmental activists to save the tree from being cut down. The tree was saved and still thrives to this day.

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Sacred Camphor in Japan
Wise Trees - Sacred Camphor

A rope has been tied around this camphor tree to signify its sacred status. Around 2,000 years old, this ancient tree is a shrine to followers of the Shinto religion.

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Sweet Shop Tree in India
Wise Trees - Sweet Shop Tree

This sweet shop has a neem tree growing right in the middle of it. It is one of India's most sacred trees, and the sweet shop owners prayed to the tree for good health and prosperity. In return, they built the shop around the tree rather than cut it down.

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Tomb Raider Trees in Cambodia
Wise Trees - Tomb Raider Trees

These awe-inspiring trees achieved global fame when they starred in Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft: Tom Raider film in 2001. But they go much further back than that. For centuries they have wrapped themselves around the Ta Prohm Temple. The tree roots are completely entwined with the structure of the architecture.

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