Planet Earth

Trees: Upside Down, Playing with Royalty, and Full of Dragon Blood

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Beth Moon traveled far and wide to document and commune with some of the oldest and most famous trees in the world. Her quest took her across California's Mojave desert, the English countryside, and the island of Madagascar. Bay Area based photographer Ms. Moon explains the impetus for the project:

"I was reading "The Sacred Yew" which tells the story of Allen Meredith, the man that was responsible for revealing the correct age of the oldest trees to be thousands of years old. Until the 70's scientists believed the oldest trees to be hundreds of years old, so this whole concept of time really fascinated me. I was living in England at the time and found out through research that many of the oldest trees were right in the UK, so that was a good starting place for this series."

One of the more remarkable specimens in the group is the above, the Dragon Blood Tree, Dracaena Cinnabari, named for it's crimson sap. The tree is found only on the Yemeni island of Socotra, a UNESCO natural hertitage site--and the tree itself is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Widely used in the ancient world, Roman Gladiators sought it to cure wounds, and purportedly smeared their bodies with it to reduce bleeding. 18th century Italian violin makers used the resin for violin varnish, and it continues to be used for that purpose. The red sap was used in medieval alchemy and magic, and remains in use today in folk magic ritual. Practical uses of red sap today include; dye, a glue and even lipstick. The locals of the island use it for healing wounds, diarrhea, ulcers and reducing fever.

Ms. Moon's photographs, "Portraits of Time" will be on view through the beginning of June at the Verve Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Captions by Ms. Moon.

"Shade of a Dragon's Blood Tree"

"Bristlecone Pine" High in the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest in California are gnarled bristlecone pines well over 4,000 years old. The Methuselah trail in the Schulman Grove is home to many of these ancient trees. They sprouted during glacial times, fifteen centuries before the birth of Christ.

"Avenue of the Baobabs"Adansonia grandidieri, is truly the strangest and most magnificent of the baobab species, otherwise known as the upside-down trees, only found on the island of Madagascar. These trees are the remains of what used to be a very large forest. This species is rare and endangered, threatened by slash-and-burn farming, over grazing and damage from bark removal by local communities.

"General Sherman" The Sequoia National Park in California is home to the biggest tree in the world, a sequoia, 274 feet high, is named after a union commander in the American Civil war, General William Tecumseh Sherman. The cinnamon colored trunk boasts a girth of 60 feet, weighing 1500 tons.

"Queen Elizabeth Oak" Queen Elizabeth's Oak Tree is in London's Greenwich Park. This ancient hollow tree was planted around the 12th Century. Elizabeth I once played around this tree watched by her parents Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Legend has it that the tree was also a lock-up for offenders.

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