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Oldest Tree in Lithuania: 1,500+ Years

The Stelmužės ąžuolas is a European oak, 11 1/2 feet (3.5 m) in diameter, 42.7 feet (13 m) in circumference at its widest part, and 75 1/2 feet (23 m) high. In 1960 the oak was declared a natural monument and included in the list of protected objects in Lithuania. According to legend, "Perkūnas," God of Thunder (and second only to "Dievas") was worshipped beneath this tree. Some say there is treasure under its roots. Others have said you can enter the hollow oak and descend into the underworld.

The oak was sacred to many gods, including Zeus/Jupiter and the Celtic Dagda. Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are often hit by lightning as they often are the tallest feature in the landscape. In England, where this same species of tree is called English Oak, Druids practiced rituals in oak groves and cherished the mistletoe that grows on oak-tree branches. It’s also linked with royalty: ancient kings and Roman Emperors wore crowns of oak leaves.

A chapel nearby, built in 1650 without using saws or iron nails, is the oldest wooden religious building in Lithuania. Stelmužė is also known for the Tower of Slaves (Vergų bokštas), a rectangular building constructed of stone and bricks in the 18th century, used for imprisonment of serfs.

Stelmužė is 7 1/2 miles (12 km) north of Zarasai, and 20 1/2 driving miles (33 km) west of Daugavpils, Latvia -- only because there is no direct route. googlemaps

Oaks produce one of the hardest and most durable timbers on the planet, and its wood has been prized for thousands of years. It is still used for flooring, wine barrels, firewood, and -- especially in Lithuania -- is preferred for sculpture.

Other uses of oak:

  • Leaves, bark and acorns were believed to heal many medical ailments, including diarrhea, inflammation and kidney stones.

  • Acorns have also been used to make flour for bread making.

  • Tannin in the bark has been used to tan leather since at least Roman times.

European Oak vs. American Oak:

  • European Oak has roughly double the tannin content of American Oak, making it more durable and rot-resistant, and why it was the preferred wood for ship-building throughout European history.

  • European Oak tends to have tighter grain.

  • European Oak tends to be more knotty.

The European oak -- note the elongated acorn. wikipedia


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