Turning tragedy on its head, the rural community of Monchique celebrates World Tree Day today remembering “an important tree that was part of our day-to-day for centuries” but which became sick and died last year.
The largest Magnolia in Europe used to stand in woodland surrounding the town’s dilapidated Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro.
Botanists labelled it “Europe’s oldest Magnolia” years ago when it measured almost 30 metres high, 25 metres wide (at the top) and more than 5 metres round its trunk.
Former dictator António de Oliveira Salazar gave the ancient tree the status of ‘monumental tree of public interest’ in 1947. But in the intervening years, it fell into decline.
As the borough’s poetic mayor Rui André explains: “Like every living thing, trees get old, fall victim to pests and illnesses, and also die.
“Everything possible was done using specialised help, but we couldn’t avoid its death and fall at the end of last year”.
In a bid to ‘make up’ for the gap in local history, the town decided to use World Tree Day to inspire schoolchildren into planting a new Magnolia in almost exactly the same spot.
At the same time, five more young Magnolias were planted in the borough.
In the words of Rui André, as the ceremonies went ahead, children were also offered commemorate gifts made up from the wood of the fallen Magnolia, for “everyone to be able to take part in the rebirth of this important icon to our cultural and natural heritage which left such a mark in the lives of those with whom it shared moments of joy or who simply admired its beauty, longevity and extraordinary size”.
Tree planting ceremonies began early this morning and will extend throughout the day.