Oak of Stelmužė elected Lithuania’s Tree of the Year2016-10-17
Lithuanians have elected the Oak of Stelmužė the country’s Tree of the Year 2016. The oak grows in Stelmužė village, Zarasai district, and is considered the oldest tree in Lithuania. The age of the giant oak, measuring almost 10 m in diameter and 19 m un height, is believed to be some 1 000 years.
According to Vidmantas Bezaras, Director of the Protected Areas and Landscape Department of the Ministry of Environment and chairman of the jury of the Lithuanian Tree of the Year 2016 contest, the Oak of Stelmužė has become a symbol of the Lithuanian oak. Oaks that have sprung from its acorns, the so-called little Stelmužė oak-trees, grow all over the country, including the Oak Wood of Revival in Ožkabaliai village, the birth place of Jonas Basanavičius. The Oak of Stelmužė also adorned the Lithuanian currency litas.
The election of the Lithuanian Tree of the Year was held for the first time in our country. The Ministry of Environment issued an invitation to all the inhabitants, especially nature lovers, to participate in the election. The election jury received proposals of 53 trees from municipalities, directorates of protected areas, naturalists and individuals. The jury selected 12 candidates for the final phase. As many as 8 candidates were oak trees, among them the oaks of Alkai, Rykantai (Viktoras Bergas), Bradesiai, Elmė (with six trunks), Gudlaukis, Jurgis Bielinis, Stelmužė and Unity. In addition to them, also selected for the contest were the fifteen-trunk lime tree of Papilė, the hollowed pine tree of Darželiai village, the Witch Ash Tree and the Witch Spruce-Witch Broom.
People elected the Tree of the Year electronically until 10 October. The votes received totalled 3441. The Oak of Stelmužė that won the largest number of the votes (686) was closely followed by the Witch Spruce growing in the Pagėgiai municipality that was short of only 50 votes. This impressive spruce of 36 m in height and 5.8 m in diameter has 17 trunks. The age of the Witch Spruce is about 150 years. The third place (493 votes) went to the Unity Oak Tree in Žeimelis, Pakruojis district, measuring 20 m in height and 3.1 m in diameter. Inhabitants of the town planted this tree in 1923 on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Lithuania’s independence.
Next year the Oak of Stelmužė will take part in the European Tree of the Year contest. This contest was launched in 2011 on the initiative of the Czech Republic. That year the European Tree of the year was the Romanian Lime of Leciceni, in 2012 the Hungarian Old Lime Tree of Felsőmocsolád, in 2013 the Plane Tree of Eger, Hungary, in 2014 the Sliven Elm of Bulgaria, in 2015 the Estonian Oak Tree of Saaremaa Island, and this year the Oak of Bátaszék of Hungary.