While in Croatia last year Bill and Dara went to visit this stunning Oriental Plane Tree. It is a protected park architectural monument, also nominated for European Tree of the year in 2018. When last measured in 2012, this tree stood 133 feet high and was 32.5 feet around, with a crown spread of 115 feet out! This beautiful tree resides at the entrance of the Trsteno Arboretum.

Oriental Plane Tree in Croatia

Fun fact: This is the same location where parts of Game of Thrones were filmed, particularly seasons 4 and 5!

An Oriental Plane Tree (Chinar Tree or Chinese Banyan) is in the genus family of plane trees, along with sycamore and buttonwood. It is sometimes referred to as ‘The Old World Sycamore’, truly fitting as the nickname sounds as magical as this tree looks. Its native range is Eurasia, from the Balkans to as far east as Iran and Central Asia. The tree is capable of growing in most temperate regions, though it benefits greatly from warm summers. Especially prized for the shade and coolness it provides during the hot season from its tendency to grow limbs horizontally. The twigs and roots are used to make fabric dyes, and its wood (lacewood) has many purposes including furniture. Its leaves, can be used in an art form called leaf carving which originated in China.

The plane tree is nothing short of enchanting. The Athenian Academy, outside Athens, featured a sacred grove of plane trees where the students learned and practiced philosophy.  Dionysius the Elder (c. 432-367 BC), tyrant of Syracuse, had plane trees conveyed to the city of Rhegium (Reggio di Calabria). They were looked upon as the great marvel of his palace, according to Pliny’s sources. Hindu Kashmiris believe that the plane tree was traditionally planted near Hindu holy places in Kashmir and is associated with Hindu goddess Bhavani.

It is remarkable and fascinating that a tree can have such a rich history and influence to many cultures.