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Sweet chestnut is tree of the year

An oak planted in Charente to mark the birth of François 1er wins public vote but jury prize goes to Corsican chestnut

A SWEET chestnut that may be 1,000 years old has been named the 2014 “tree of the year” in a nationwide competition that highlighted trees all over France.

The châtaignier in Pianellu, Corsica won the jury prize in the competition run by the Office National des Forêts and Terre Sauvage magazine.

The public prize went to a 520-year-old oak tree planted in the Antenne valley near Cognac in Poitou-Charentes in 1494, to mark the birth of François 1er. It took 10,533 of the 25,000 votes cast. Sited at the top of a hill near where local hiking trails cross, the 17m oak has a circumference of 5.5m

The Corsican sweet chestnut is smaller, at just 12m in height, but is much wider as its gnarled trunk has a circumference of 15m. It is known locally as "l'arbre à pain" food or bread tree as its nuts have been used to make flour for centuries and then used later to feed pigs.

Growing at Castaniccia, local people hope that its fame will bring tourists to revive the local economy.

This year, the jury also awarded a special prize to a beech tree in Lorraine, which survived being torn apart by bombs and shells during the First World War. The 20m tree was about 100-years-old when the war started and survived by growing two trunks, although underground chemicals caused twisting in its limbs.

In all there were 180 trees nominated in the competition and a photo display of the contestants from 24 regions across France is on display at the Gare de Lyon in Paris until the end of October.
Photo: ©Hellio & Van Ingen / Terre Sauvage

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