On Arbor Day and throughout the year, you can build your appreciation for trees by seeing some of the most remarkable specimens, found nearby and at the farthest reaches of our Earth.
Though trees around the world are different, the benefits are the same. Seeing forests and landscapes that are different from those we’re used to can remind us of the diversity and yet the essential similarities of our world. All trees are valuable, but some are downright exceptional!
When you make vacation plans, consider visiting noteworthy tree destinations.
Richmonders can take a staycation and still appreciate many fascinating trees.
- The red mulberry tree in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Children’s Garden is a large, sprawling tree that children can climb on.
- The massive American sycamore tree outside of Sycamore Tavern in Montpelier has been standing the 1700s.
- The tricycle tree, at 505 Center Street in Ashland, is a huge old willow oak. Two brothers in 1908 fastened a tricycle in the limbs to hoist treasure up to their tree house—the wheel is still there, embedded in the wood. The wheel also demonstrates an interesting tree fact, that limbs don’t get higher as the tree gets taller: it is 20 feet off the ground, exactly as it was when the Blincoe brothers put it there.
- Gingko trees, like the ones lining Massie Road in Windsor Farms, are remarkable primitive trees, relatively unchanged since the Triassic Period 200 million years ago. Their most enjoyable achievements in our contemporary view are their unique fan-shaped leaves and the beautiful yellow fall foliage.
- The massive, 230-year-old willow oak standing in front of the Boulders III building was protected by the property’s developers during construction.
By venturing outside Richmond but still staying in state, you can find some memorable trees to fall in love with. The book Remarkable Trees of Virginia showcases the state’s oldest, largest, and most unique trees. Among my favorite are the bald cypress trees. Growing beside swampy waters, they seem primitive and otherworldly—you’ll almost expect a pterodactyl to swoop down at you!
Southampton County has both the oldest and largest trees in the state: bald cypress that are over 1,000 years old and one, Big Mama, which is 12 feet in diameter and 123 feet tall.
You can see other bald cypress trees at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach along the Bald Cypress Trail or at the Great Dismal Swamp and Lake Drummond, which you can access by water or by road and multiuse trails.
3. Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska
Today, you and your family can visit Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska, where Arbor Day began, embracing a tree adventure of fun and learning. Designed to help children and adults fall in love with trees, the farm includes the indoor Wood Pavilion, Nature Explore Club Cabin, Exploratory trails, and the Canopy Treehouse. Among their most remarkable trees are 70 varieties of preservation apple trees, with antique apple tastings on Sundays (in season). If you stay at Arbor Day Farm’s Lied Lodge, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful wood beams, pillars, and furnishings.
4. California Redwoods
At Redwood National and State Parks in California, marvel at these old trees, the largest and tallest trees on the planet.
5. Ancient Bristlecone Pines
At Great Basin National Park in Nevada, see the gnarled, twisted figures of the ancient bristlecone pines, believed to be the oldest living things on earth, some over 5,000 years old. Notice the difficult conditions under which these trees survive—harsh winds and bitter cold—making their age even more remarkable.
6. A 2-Acre Tree in Brazil
The Pirangi cashew tree near Natal, Brazil covers nearly two acres. The 177-year-old tree has a genetic mutation, so each branch that touches the ground puts down roots and keeps growing.
7. Giant Canteen Trees
In Africa, Madagascar, India, Ceylon or Australia, you can find the amazing baobab tree, with huge, branchless trunks that actually store thousands of gallons of water. You can also find two large baobabs in Barbados.