Date: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 14:30

Three ancient olive trees removed to make way for younger specimens have found a new home at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The monumental evergreens have been installed in Eden’s Mediterranean Biome where they are now taking root alongside hundreds of other plants from the climatic region.

Situated in a stunning setting near the entrance to the Biome, the towering trees are estimated to vary in age between 600 and 1,500 years, with the tallest reaching a majestic 3.95 metres (nearly 13 feet) in height.

Before Eden discovered them, they had been removed from farms in Alentejo in Portugal and Cordoba in Spain to make way for the planting of younger olive trees. 

DNA analysis by the University of Cordoba established what types of olive tree they are and their estimated age.

Over several years Eden worked with its long-established supplier, the natural food company Olives Et Al,  to source, purchase and transport the trees to Eden’s nursery beyond its main site, where they were protected and quarantined before their final journey to the Biome earlier this week.

Welcoming the historic additions to the project’s plant collections today, Eden chief executive Gordon Seabright said:  “The planting of these magical and ancient trees marks an important moment for Eden.  They are truly evocative of the Mediterranean. Embodied in their gnarled trunks’ DNA are stories of ancient civilizations.

“It has been an adventure getting them here safely by land and sea. We are so grateful for the meticulous work of Olives Et Al and the University of Cordoba in helping us find and cultivate these wonderful giants so that millions of visitors can connect through them to the living world.”

On some farms around the Mediterranean, as old olive trees gradually become less productive and therefore less valuable, they are often dug up to make way for new trees.  Some of the old trees are sold on and others end up as firewood or being turned into artefacts such as chopping boards.

Giles Henschel, Founder of Dorset-based Olives Et Al, worked closely with Eden managers to source the trees from Ecija in the province of Seville, with the help of his Spanish colleague Alfonso Fernandez.

Eventually the team chose the three trees as grand additions to the smaller olive specimens which already grace the Mediterranean Biome.    

Giles said:  “Having been involved with the Eden Project since it was first conceived everyone at Olives Et Al could not be more delighted to see these magnificent trees finally in their new home – over two and a half thousand years of olive tree saved for future generations to appreciate and revere.

“The oldest tree at around 1500 years old was a mere sapling when King Arthur defeated the Saxons in 500AD while the Visigoths ruled the Iberian Peninsula where all these trees were born.

“In bringing these monumental trees to Eden we really have brought living history to the very heart of the Med Biome.  Long may they flourish and prosper.”