11/08/2013 02:13 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

11 Fascinating Trees

It's difficult to reflect on trees and not get sappy. (Badum tish! Pun intended.) Besides providing shelter, shade and fruit, the tree is a metaphor for life. Just think of the Buddha sitting under a Bodhi tree, or Robin Hood and his merry men hiding in an old oak, and of course, Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here is a list of trees you'll want to know more about:

The Angel Oak
Photo credit: Greg Walters / Creative Commons

The Angel Oak is a tree that must be seen to know its power. 65 feet tall with massive limbs up to 89 feet long, and providing 17,000 square feet of shade, the word "awesome" is used correctly in reference to the Angel Oak. Thousands of visitors visit each year. Some just want to put their hand on the 1,500-year-old, living organism. It is both comforting and eerie to be around something so old. If the oak could speak, what would it say? Take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina and have a listen.

The Hardy Tree
Photo credit: Nick Garrod

What do you do when a railroad needs to pass through an old cemetery? Get creative! In 1860s London, the railways were expanding, and the Midland Railway plan took the tracks through part of the St. Pancras Churchyard. Bodies needed to be exhumed and tombstones removed. The task befell a young Thomas Hardy. (Before writing novels and poetry, Hardy studied architecture.) He came up with an elegant, meaningful solution for the displaced grave markers. He arranged them to resemble roots, emanating from this ash tree.

Moon Trees
Photo credit: NASA

While traveling 27,086 miles through space and drinking gallons of Tang - of which Buzz Aldrin recently said: "Tang sucks!" - the 1971 Apollo 14 crew brought along a surprising cargo item. They had hundreds of tree seeds - sycamore, loblolly pine, redwood and douglas fir - brought by Stuart Roosa, former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper. They were brought back from space, and planted throughout the U.S. Sadly, many are nearing the end of their lives. Visit one soon!

Robin Hood's Tree
Photo credit: BT

The Major Oak, an 800-year-old behemoth in Sherwood Forest, was reputedly the hiding place of Robin Hood and his merry men. The connection to the legendary hero has elevated the tree to worldwide fame. Nottinghamshire Police busted a number of people for taking acorns and selling them online. You'll find that the tree is surrounded by an elaborate scaffolding system, to support its massive old limbs.

Shoe Tree
Photo credit: Soopageek

Shoe tossing, most commonly seen over wires in the city, is also popular in certain trees. Near the small town of Middlegate, Nevada, there is a story behind the this shoe tree. A newlywed couple camped here in the 1980s, and got into a fight. The woman threatened to walk away, but the man prevented her by throwing her shoes over a branch in the tree. They eventually made up and all was well. Later, they returned to add another pair of shoes to the tree: their baby's. And so it became a tradition. In 2010, vandals cut the tree down. But a nearby tree was designated as the new shoe hanger.

Singing Ringing Tree
Photo credit: John Sargent / Creative Commons

More than the representation of a tree, this sculpture looks like a swarm of bees or a tornado that's just touched the ground. The drama of suspended motion is further compounded by the sound that it produces. The sculpture is comprised of pipes, which creates a harmonic, yet discordant sound as the wind travels through it. The sculpture, by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, is one of four across East Lancashire in the UK.

The Tree of Life
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

This 400-year old mesquite tree in Bahrain is the only living thing for miles around. How does it survive? The root system may reach to 150 feet below the surface. People often claim that this tree is the vestige of the Garden of Eden, which once stood here. Hence the name "Tree of Life."

Mandela Family Tree
Photo credit: James Goode

South Africa's anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician, Nelson Mandela, lived in this house from 1946 to 1962. In the yard there is a tree, under which each of his children and grandchildren's umbilical cords is buried. The tree literally becomes a family tree. Now operating as a museum, the Mandela House (and tree!) is open for viewing.

Chapel Oak
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

When this oak tree was struck by lightning in 1669, it was hollowed out by a fire. The local abbot and priest took this as a sign of holy divination. Two chapels were built in the tree: Our Lady of Peace and the Hermit's Room. During the French Revolution, the tree was in danger of being destroyed by an angry mob, who saw it as a symbol of the old governance. A local, whose name is lost to history, stepped forward and argued that the tree was "the temple of reason," thus sparing it from destruction. Locals use the chapels to this day.

Buddha Tree
Photo credit: Panoramio

Planted in 288 BC, this fig tree (or, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi) is a sapling of the original tree, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. (It's also the oldest known planted tree.) The original, located in India, was destroyed by a ruler of a different faith. Ruins from ancient monasteries found nearby confirm that it has long been a sacred site for Buddhists around the world. Anyone can come to Sri Lanka and worship under the Bodhi without hindrance.

The Oldest Trees in the World

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

When Prometheus, an old bristlecone pine of unknown age, was cut down by an eager graduate student for study in 1964, he soon discovered that he made a terrible mistake. (The look on his face must have been priceless. "I just cut down a 5,000 year old tree. The world's oldest." Gulp.) There are conflicting accounts as to whether he had permission or not. But who could rightly give it? A tree in the same grove, still standing, is determined to be older. They won't tell us which one.