Sweden's 'oldest tree' is on the verge of dying

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Sweden's 'oldest tree' is on the verge of dying
The oak tree, seen here in 2015, is not expected to survive much longer. Photo: Jerry Svensson/Länsstyrelsen Kalmar/TT

A living testament to Sweden’s long history is about to disappear forever.


An oak tree in the southeastern city of Kalmar that is believed to be well over 1,000 years old and is often claimed to be Sweden's oldest tree, has been showing limited signs of life in recent years. Local officials now fear that its days are numbered. 
The tree is believed to be the oldest in all of Sweden and has become a significant tourist attraction. Called both Kvilleken and Rumskullaeken by locals, the oak tree has been displaying signs of deteriorating health for years to the point where last year just one lone branch grew green leaves. 
“If it blooms again this year, it will probably happen sometime during the second half of May,” Jerry Svensson, a member of Kalmar’s county administrative board, told local newspaper Vimmerby Tidning. 
But even if the tree does sprout a few green leaves again this year, Svensson and his colleagues are afraid that the writing is on the wall. 
“Of course it is very sad, but we have no more tricks up our sleeves. Now the oak tree should just be allowed to live the rest of its life in peace for as long as it can,” he said. 
Speaking to national broadcaster SVT, Svensson said the tree’s fate is sealed. 
“The oak is going to die but I can’t say if it will be this year or in a later year,” he said. 
The historic tree’s health has been deteriorating for years, a process that was probably hastened in 2005 when an iron ring that was placed around the tree in the 1960s was cut off. A replacement band is believed to have been put back on too tightly, leading to the tree slowly strangling itself. In its weakened state, it was subsequently hit by both a caterpillar infestation that drained it of nutrients and a fungal disease. 
While locals claim that Kvilleken is Sweden’s oldest tree, tourism officials in the western county of Dalarna beg to differ. They say that a Norway Spruce there known as Old Tjikko is not only Sweden’s oldest tree, but the oldest in the world. This claim, however, depends on how exactly one defines a tree. 
While Old Tjikko’s root system is estimated to be well over 9,500 years old, it has regenerated new trunks and branches countless times over the centuries, while Kvilleken’s body has been the same for over a millennium. While the oak tree’s exact age is unknown, tests carried out in the 1930s established that it was around 950 years old back then, making it well over 1,000 years old today. 


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