King of the forest: Poland's beech crowned European Tree of the Year 2024

Poland's 'Heart of the Garden' beech, winner of European Tree of the Year 2024.
Poland's 'Heart of the Garden' beech, winner of European Tree of the Year 2024. Copyright Bożka Piotrowska vel Zielona Bombonierka
By Ian Smith
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The European Tree of the Year award - bringing together trees with interesting stories from around Europe while promoting the importance of our connection with nature - goes to a 200-year-old beech.

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In a world full of division, anger and heartbreak, it’s cathartic to have something uncontroversial that we can all sit back and admire.

That’s what the European Tree of the Year award gives us with its annual selection of the most unique and beautiful trees from across the continent - and 2024's winner is a 200-year-old Polish beech nicknamed 'Heart of the Garden'.

This majestic tree, with an unusually thick trunk, is located in the heart of the botanical garden of the University of Wroclaw, in the Niemcza region of Poland. 

It took home 39,158 votes and is the third Polish tree in a row to win the annual contest.

How trees can bring us together

“I haven’t met a person who has told me they don’t like trees,” says Adam Holub, project manager at Nadace Partnerstvi, a Czech environmental organisation that organises the competition, which began in 2011.

“There’s two symbols that you can use very effectively to carry an important message with an environmental twist - trees and bees.”

Holub says the main aim of the competition is to promote the relationship between the communities local to the trees and the environment.

“It’s also to give an opportunity to bring local representatives to the European level,” he explains. “We believe it’s important for the people in the grassroots to give their thoughts to the top.”

This happens at the awards ceremony, which took place last night at the European Parliament in Brussels, and was attended by several MEPs and people from the communities of each of the trees nominated.

France's 'The Weeping Beech of Bayeux' tree, which took second place.
France's 'The Weeping Beech of Bayeux' tree, which took second place.Emmanuel Boitier/Emmanuel Boitier

This year 15 countries participated in the competition, putting forward trees with rich histories, from an ancient olive to one that needs a little help to stay standing. Here are some of the notable runners-up:

France’s unstable belle

Slotting into second place with 24,807 votes is France’s ‘The Weeping Beech of Bayeux’.

With a canopy spanning 40m this 160 year-old tree needs an artificial support structure to stay standing. But the effort is worth it to preserve this true beauty.

Italy's third place entry, ‘The Thousand-year-old Olive Tree of Luras’.
Italy's third place entry, ‘The Thousand-year-old Olive Tree of Luras’.Valerio Atzori Corpo

Italy’s ancient olive

In third place with 13,933 votes is ‘The Thousand-year-old Olive Tree of Luras’. 

As the name suggests this tree is very old. It’s estimated to have stood in Luras, a small town in Sardinia, for 3000-4000 years. We’re talking the Bronze Age era here. As the award’s website puts it: “a true symbol of resilience and continuity.”

Portugal's entry to European Tree of the Year 2024, which came fourth.
Portugal's entry to European Tree of the Year 2024, which came fourth.José Couceiro da Costa

Portugal’s prim and proper stunner

In fourth place with 13,508 votes is Portugal’s entry ‘Camellia’. Beautifully manicured, this tree is sitting pretty in the centennial gardens of the ancient Villa Margaridi in the city of Guimarães.

Czech Republic's ‘Pear Tree in the Middle of a Field’ placed fifth.
Czech Republic's ‘Pear Tree in the Middle of a Field’ placed fifth.Tom Kalous

Czech Republic's enduring nature

Rounding out the top five with 10,433 votes is the aptly named ‘Pear Tree in the Middle of a Field’ from the Czech Republic.

Its distinctive shape has been influenced by the strong westerly winds in the area. According to the European Tree of the Year website, “it survived collectivisation in the times of former Czechoslovakia, the consolidation of fields and the construction of land reclamation.” How many of us can say that?

You can find the full selection of 2024 entries on the award’s website.

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