The World's Oldest Clove Tree

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#1
An old tree, a story of trade and Imperialism.

The world's oldest clove tree
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18551857
By Simon Worrall

Ternate, Indonesia

Indonesia's "Spice Islands" produced more nutmeg, mace, pepper and cloves than anywhere else in the world and on the island of Ternate, one particular tree has an extraordinary history.

"Bule, Bule," shout the children excitedly, as our jeep threads its way up a steep road on the side of the volcano. "White man, White man."

I am on Ternate, one of Indonesia's fabled Spice Islands.

The midday call to prayer mingles with the mosquito-whine of motorcycles. Above us, smoke seeps from the side of Gamalama, the pyramid-shaped volcano that dominates the island.

It had erupted only a month earlier, sending a tongue of molten lava pouring down the mountain into the sea. This part of the world is not called "The Ring of Fire" for nothing.

I am searching for the world's oldest clove tree. Why it is called Afo, no one knows. Neither is it exactly certain when Afo was planted. But estimates suggest it is between 350 and 400 years old.

For millennia, Ternate and the neighbouring island of Tidore were the world's only source of those fragrant, twig-like herbs that love to hide at the back of our kitchen cupboards.

Cloves from Ternate were traded by Arab seafarers along the maritime Silk Route as far afield as the Middle East, Europe and China.

A Han dynasty ruler from the 3rd Century BC insisted that anyone addressing him chew cloves to sweeten their breath. Their origin was a fiercely-guarded secret until the Portuguese and Spanish burst into the Java Sea in the 16th Century.

Our hip, young Indonesian driver is clearly baffled as to why anyone should want to see an old tree.

And he clearly has no idea where Afo is. At a roadside stall selling everything from basketballs to fruit, we stop to ask directions.

The stallholder points back down the hill. With great difficulty, and reeking brake pads, we turn round and drive back down the volcano.

After a few hundred yards, we spot a signboard pointing to some steps cut into the hillside.

The path winds upwards through groves of clove trees and bamboo.


Afo survived the destruction of clove trees in the 1700s

We are at nearly 1,800m (6,000ft) above sea level. Below us, through the foliage, I can just make out the sea and, beyond it, the island of Tidore.

Huffing and puffing up one last flight of steps I find myself under a tree that was probably here when Shakespeare was alive.

Afo was once 40 metres tall and four metres round. Sadly, today, all that remains is a massive stump and some bare branches.

A few years ago, villagers hungry for firewood even attacked Afo with machetes. A brick wall now surrounds it.

If the Dutch had had their way, Afo would not have survived at all.

The Netherlands United East India Company, or Voc, was the world's first multinational corporation.

Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tree belonging to the Myrtaceae family
The trees can grow up to 12m height
Cloves are used in cooking, either whole or in a ground form
They are also used in some cigarettes, incense and perfume
BBC Food - Clove recipes

And just as corporations today seek to monopolise plant genes in the developing world, the Voc set about seizing total control of spice production.

In 1652, after displacing the Portuguese and Spanish, the Dutch introduced a policy known as extirpatie: extirpation.

All clove trees not controlled by the Voc were uprooted and burned.

Anyone caught growing, stealing or possessing clove plants without authorisation faced the death penalty.

On the Banda Islands, to the south - the world's only source of nutmeg - the Dutch used Japanese mercenaries to slaughter almost the entire male population.

Like Opec today, the Voc also limited supply to keep prices high. Only 800-1,000 tonnes of cloves were exported per year. The rest of the harvest was burned or dumped in the sea.

Somehow, Afo managed to slip through the net. A rogue clove. A guerrilla plant waging a secret war of resistance.

Afo would eventually bring down the Dutch monopoly on cloves.

In 1770, a Frenchman, appropriately named Poivre, stole some of Afo's seedlings.

This Monsieur Pepper took them to France, then the Seychelles Islands and, eventually, Zanzibar, which is today the world's largest producer of cloves.

As I stand looking up into its branches, I wonder who planted Afo - and kept its location secret all those years.

Or did it just survive because of its remoteness high on the slopes of Gamalama?

Either way, this ancient clove tree remains a symbol of the ultimate folly of empire - and the stubborn refusal of nature to be controlled.

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rynner2

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Well, no new developments here, but if I add this story we have the makings of an apple pie!
Original Bramley apple tree in Southwell is dying

The original Bramley apple tree - planted more than 200 years ago and the "mother" of all modern Bramley apples - is dying from a fungal infection.
The tree was sown by a girl called Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809 in the Nottinghamshire town of Southwell.

It has been neglected since the death of owner Nancy Harrison almost two years ago.
Bio-scientist Prof Ted Cocking, who has cloned the tree, said the people of Southwell should care for the Bramley.

Prof Cocking, from Nottingham University, has studied the tree for many years and used tissue cultures to micro-propagate the tree and create clones of the original Bramley.
"It looks as though it is going to die - although we can never be 100% certain with a tree.
"It is a great shame. Ms Harrison devoted most of her life looking after the tree and entertaining people who came from all over the world to visit the tree.
"Since her death, nobody has looked after the tree. The people of Southwell should club together to care for the tree and the garden - it wouldn't cost much.
Even if it is dying - we all want to die with dignity. It needs to be nursed in its terminal years."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From one tree to thousands
  • A girl called Mary Ann Brailsford grew the tree from a pip in about 1809.
  • Henry Merryweather was just 17 when he came across a gardener carrying some of the apples in 1856, and asked where they had been grown. By this time, the garden containing the apple tree belonged to a butcher called Matthew Bramley.
  • Mr Bramley agreed that Mr Merryweather could take cuttings from the tree and grow them in his family's nursery, providing they had the name Bramley's Seedling.
  • There are now more than 300 Bramley growers in England
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Prof Cocking said the fungal infection gets into the water transport system of the tree and slowly kills it off - similar to a human's arteries getting clogged up.
Any extra stresses - such as a long hot summer - could hasten its death.

Clones taken by Prof Cocking and his team have now reached maturity and are sold commercially.
He said the fruit has a higher concentration of vitamin C and more flavour than that of the 200-year-old specimen and its descendants.

Sir John Starkey, who sells the fruit, said he asked Prof Cocking to clone the original tree as an experiment to "see how they behaved in commercial conditions."
"They looked more like tomato plants, little thin spindly things. I thought they are not going to survive in the wild but how wrong I was because in a few years they were outgrowing in dimensions and vigour the trees which I had from my nursery men," said.

The Bramley became popular because the apple stores well and keeps its flavour when cooked. About 83,000 tonnes of them are now grown in Britain annually.

According to the The Bramley Apple Information Service, it is not well known outside the UK except in Japan where it is revered.
One Japanese apple farmer said he "nearly cried" when he visited Southwell.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-36826038



 

Yithian

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#4
Well, no new developments here, but if I add this story we have the makings of an apple pie!
Original Bramley apple tree in Southwell is dying

The original Bramley apple tree - planted more than 200 years ago and the "mother" of all modern Bramley apples - is dying from a fungal infection.
The tree was sown by a girl called Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809 in the Nottinghamshire town of Southwell.

It has been neglected since the death of owner Nancy Harrison almost two years ago.
Bio-scientist Prof Ted Cocking, who has cloned the tree, said the people of Southwell should care for the Bramley.

Prof Cocking, from Nottingham University, has studied the tree for many years and used tissue cultures to micro-propagate the tree and create clones of the original Bramley.
"It looks as though it is going to die - although we can never be 100% certain with a tree.
"It is a great shame. Ms Harrison devoted most of her life looking after the tree and entertaining people who came from all over the world to visit the tree.
"Since her death, nobody has looked after the tree. The people of Southwell should club together to care for the tree and the garden - it wouldn't cost much.
Even if it is dying - we all want to die with dignity. It needs to be nursed in its terminal years."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From one tree to thousands
  • A girl called Mary Ann Brailsford grew the tree from a pip in about 1809.
  • Henry Merryweather was just 17 when he came across a gardener carrying some of the apples in 1856, and asked where they had been grown. By this time, the garden containing the apple tree belonged to a butcher called Matthew Bramley.
  • Mr Bramley agreed that Mr Merryweather could take cuttings from the tree and grow them in his family's nursery, providing they had the name Bramley's Seedling.
  • There are now more than 300 Bramley growers in England
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Prof Cocking said the fungal infection gets into the water transport system of the tree and slowly kills it off - similar to a human's arteries getting clogged up.
Any extra stresses - such as a long hot summer - could hasten its death.

Clones taken by Prof Cocking and his team have now reached maturity and are sold commercially.
He said the fruit has a higher concentration of vitamin C and more flavour than that of the 200-year-old specimen and its descendants.

Sir John Starkey, who sells the fruit, said he asked Prof Cocking to clone the original tree as an experiment to "see how they behaved in commercial conditions."
"They looked more like tomato plants, little thin spindly things. I thought they are not going to survive in the wild but how wrong I was because in a few years they were outgrowing in dimensions and vigour the trees which I had from my nursery men," said.

The Bramley became popular because the apple stores well and keeps its flavour when cooked. About 83,000 tonnes of them are now grown in Britain annually.

According to the The Bramley Apple Information Service, it is not well known outside the UK except in Japan where it is revered.
One Japanese apple farmer said he "nearly cried" when he visited Southwell.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-36826038
I can't help feel that this is a metaphor for something: loving cared for across a few lifetimes and then neglected and condemned to a slow death.
 

hunck

Justified & Ancient
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#5
Since this thread has taken in other trees, this is an interesting article about ancient US trees.

Into the Wild Woods

Featuring Bristlecone Pines, at least one of which is older than 5000 years, Sequoia at 1800 years, and Sugar Pines, the largest pines in the world. The pic is a Bristlecone.

 

Krepostnoi

Popular orange vegetable
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#6
I seem to recall that the remotest tree in Australia was killed by being run in to by a lorry.

Edit: Sorry - it was in the Sahara -

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_of_Ténéré

Wikipedia has lists of individual tree deaths by decade:clap:
And apparently the collision that did for it was at least the second time a vehicle had run into it. Just how pissed do you have to be not to be able to swerve around the only damn tree for 250 miles?
 
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