Sunday , July 5 2020

Oldest Olive Tree becomes ash, Ambelos Agala Zakynthos.


“The olive tree will always be there” or will it?

A recent short film that celebrates Greece’s ever lasting connection with olive trees certainly stirs emotion. For me it got my thinking about the devastation from the fires in September, 2019 in Zakynthos. More specifically, the area of Ambelos was my concern which is situated in the mountain area of Agala.

Just how long will our Olive trees be here, if we do not protect them?

Reports of the oldest olive tree known as the “Parthenon” simply turned into ash, is an alarm for concern, not only for our trees but for our entire environment.

The olive tree being a fruit bearing tree dates back to prehistoric times. In Zakynthos alone there are trees that date back to over 2000 years old. This was the case with the tree known to all as the “Parthenon”. Due to its age, which no one exactly knew, it inherited its name. When locals were asked just how old it was, most would say it’s been around since the Parthenon.

From the beginning of the year up until the 31st of October of this year 85 fires broke out. As a result 7,125 acres of land became ash.  It is also worth noting that the second largest and most devastating fire in 2019 in Greece was that of Zakynthos’ in September, 2019.

Zakynthos once again found itself under threat. Thousands of acres of virgin forest land, agricultural fields and centuries old olive groves all gone in an instant. It is unimaginable just how much damage the fires have caused. One thing for sure is that it has left a huge natural and environmental gap that no one can replace.

An environmental catastrophe.

One of the most important areas of our Island and possible the whole Mediterranean suffered. In a recent report by our local newspaper HMERA, Mr. Aristotle Martinis, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Environment at the Ionian University, explained that ‘Ambelos in Agala was one of the most important areas of the Ionian Sea, where there was an age old olive tree.”

The word was should bring an outcry to all Zakynthians. Mr Martinis continues explaining about our trees. He mentions the fact that his team measured trees in this particular area, trees that had a perimeter of about 15metres. Quite big these trees are, and it got me thinking just how old would be the oldest tree in the world.

How old is the oldest olive tree in the world?

I searched on line “the oldest olive tree”.  My findings were that the oldest olive tree in the world is located in the village of Vouves in Crete. Its perimeter of 12.5metres comes way short of the trees that have been measured in Agala. The difference between the village of Vouves and Agala in regards to protection of its olive tree, is that the importance of the village was highlighted in 1992. The olive tree was declared a nature conservation monument. Something our ‘Parthenon” olive tree should have been given and therefore perhaps it would be alive today.

Luckily not all trees were destroyed in the area thus giving hope. With scientific evidence now an online data base can be formed. A project of collecting data on monumental trees within the Ionian is on route. The general benefit of protecting these trees is so important.  Apart from highlighting the fact of its natural and cultural richness, it can also help in the field of agriculture even further. The health benefits of what these ancient trees offer are compared to none.

Saving these trees would save the culture so many Zakynthians have built themselves around for centuries. Let’s hope that the “olive tree will always be there.

A recent video showing our culture and a centuries old tradition; collecting olives!


for more photos click on https://www.imerazante.


About Louise Inzk

Louise is Australian born and has been a Greek citizen since 1991. She has deep cultural ties with the island, often writing about Zakynthian Traditions and Culture. She is also an active member of the Volunteer Group of Zakynthos, Giostra Di Zante and is a member of the women's choir "Rodambelos". Her love of the island and all it offers saw her joining the Zakynthos (Zante) Informer admin team in 2014.

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