Adonis: Europe’s Oldest Known Living Tree

Elizabeth Borneman


How old are the trees around you? Are they a few hundred years old or younger? Some trees, when left in stable environments, can live to be hundreds of years old or more.

One such ancient tree is the 1,075-year old pine tree known as Adonis. Adonis is Europe’s oldest living tree that we know about, a fact that begs the question: how many more ancient trees do we not know about yet?

What is Adonis?

Adonis is a Bosinan pine tree (Pinus heldreichii) located in the Pindos mountain range in the northern part of the country of Greece.

Adonis was dendocronologically dated by researchers from Stockholm University in Sweden, the University of Mainz in Germany, and the University of Arizona in the United States. The age of the tree was analyzed using the tree rings that indicate age as well as water supply and weather conditions.

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Ancient trees used to collect data on historic climate change

Paul J. Krusic from the University of Stockholm led the expedition that found the tree. The Pindos mountains shelter many different trees that have reached millennial age.

Scientists use these ancient trees to piece together data on climate change in the past, as tree rings will show changes in global temperature, water levels, the length of droughts, forest fires, and more.

Greece has been inhabited for over 3,000 years, which makes finding a tree as old as Adonis quite extraordinary. Many millennial aged trees in other parts of the world have been cut down as humanity has taken over previously forested lands.

Although are about a dozen other similarly-aged trees in the Pindos mountains, researchers can also use trees that have already fallen to the ground and analyze their annual rings as well.

Adonis, a Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) is the oldest known living tree in Europe.  Photo: Dr Oliver Konter, Mainz
Adonis, a Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) is the oldest known living tree in Europe. Photo: Dr Oliver Konter, Mainz

Timeline of historic events that happened during Adonis lifetime

Adonis was named after the Greek god of beauty and desire; researchers were inspired by the historical changes Adonis has lived through that include the rise of the Vikings, the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, as well as the many changes the present day has brought. Thankfully, this area of Greece has been relatively untouched and uninhabited for the last thousand years or so, lending a hand in preserving Adonis.

In Adonis’s lifetime the Vikings reached the black sea, gunpowder was created in China, and Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland. When Adonis was 250 years old the universities in Oxford and Paris were founded, and the third crusade was being waged in the modern day Middle East.

When Adonis was 500 years old, the Ottoman Empire was the ruling entity in Greece. The first parliament is created in Sweden, and Johannes Gutenberg was testing his revolutionary printing press. At the ripe old age of 750, Adonis has seen Isaac Newton create his Laws of Motion. In 1941, when Adonis has reached 1,000 years old, World War II is occurring.

History is extraordinary, as is nature. Adonis has stood through many of the changes that have impacted the world in the present day, and it continues to reveal valuable information about what the world was like a thousand years ago. What more could Adonis and other ancient trees see in the future?


Konter, O., Krusic, P. J., Trouet, V., & Esper, J. (2017). Meet Adonis, Europe’s oldest dendrochronologically dated treeDendrochronologia42, 12.

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About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.