Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ancient Olives by Lezah

I read a short story recently about a young man who went to work as a gardener in Europe (where did I read this?  Maybe in a magazine at the doctor's office? Sorry, I usually like to credit my sources but can't in this instance...).  

Anyway, this gardener went to work for a very wealthy gentleman and it was decided that the one thing that would complete this landowner's acreage was an ancient olive tree.  The gardener ended up traveling all over southern Europe and eventually a small farm in Spain was bought in order for the rights to the chosen tree to be transferred.  The plan was to then remove the tree and transplant it in the wealthy man's garden in France - or was it Italy?  Whatever!  

The point of the story, when it came down to it, was that the tree was considered by the locals to be part of the village, and the villagers raised such a hue and cry over its removal that in the end, the tree remained where it was.

But, it turns out that this is turning into a huge business in Europe and the acquisition of olive trees for one's garden has become a huge fashion statement in Europe.  Ancient olive trees, some as old as 2500 years, are being uprooted and  transplanted hundreds of miles away from where they have lived for centuries.  What attracts people to the ancient olive is their age, the breadth of their girth and correspondingly small stature, their gnarled appearance and the unusual silhouette of their branches.

There is a rising protest (as happened in the short story I read) over the unregulated removal of these trees.  Ancient olive groves are being destroyed in the name of landscape architecture and design.  Trees such as these can fetch up to $40,000 a piece.  In the region of Castellon, Spain, over 200 olive trees aged 1000+ years have been sold in the last four years and environmental groups are up in arms.  Gangs of plant thieves have been regularly stealing these trees and re-selling them as the demand is so high.  

And only time will tell if these trees will be successful in their new habitats...  

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