Don’t tie a yellow ribbon: oldest oak stands in Den Hout

Den Hout, in Brabant, home to the Netherlands’ oldest oak. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Brabant village of Den Hout may boast the oldest oak tree in the country, with a history dating back to the Middle Ages.

The tree could be as old as 800 years, forester Joris Hellevoort found when he searched the archives for references to the tree. Until now, the Den Hout oak was thought to have stood for 300 years, but Hellevoort discovered a mention of it in documents dating back to 1353.

‘In that time it is referred to as an oak with a large trunk, so you can be sure it must have been at least a century old even then,’ Hellevoort told Trouw.

Hellevoort investigated 21 ancient trees in the Netherlands for his book De Wortels van ons Land (the roots of our country), comparing images and looking for early references in historical documents for clues to their age.

‘There is probably not a tree in the land whose credentials go back this far,’ said Hellevoort who estimates the planting date of the oak to be around 1250.

Before Brabant entered the competition two other ancient oak trees, one in Gelderland, the other in Overijssel, were thought to be the oldest. However, Hellevoort’s research determined they are a mere 600 and 500 years old respectively.

‘It is vital we cherish trees and keep them for the next generations, particularly in view of climate change.’, Hellevoort said.

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