It’s time to tree-t yourself.
Humans now spend so much time indoors (sometimes we’re even required to), we have a term to describe the impact this has on our mental and physical health: nature deficit disorder. If you’re feeling burnt out, or just longing for some greenery, it’s probably time to seek it out. Studies show time spent with trees can improve your mood and mental health and may even boost your immune system. But even if you can’t experience them in-person, they’re definitely worth admiring via screen.
Here are 11 of the most fascinating trees on Earth to inspire you to branch out and experience some of nature’s magic for yourself. And hey, at the very least, you’ll have some quirky, forest-y facts to impress people at dinner parties.
INSIDER TIPThere is nothing more impressive than knowing facts about the forest—one of the main ways to connect with people, rumor has it.
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Side effects of seeing the rainbow eucalyptus include oohs, ahhs, and squealing at first sight accompanied by whispers of, “Is this real life?” Yes, it is; the rainbow eucalyptus sheds its bark in stages, so various shades of red, orange, green, blue, and purple are revealed as it ages. You won’t need a psychedelic trip to see the naturally-occurring cartoonish colors; this tree is native to tropical places such as Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Dragon Blood Tree
There are no actual dragons in this tree (I know, I know, I am disappointed, too) but you may see the blood-red medicinal sap it’s named for. Both the sap and wrinkly bark are intriguing up close, but the real treat is when you take a step back: The dragon blood tree’s skyward-pointing branches create a spaceship-shaped top—perfectly suited to the out-of-this-world landscapes of Socotra Island in Yemen.
This red river gum tree near Wilpena Pound, Australia, has been the muse of many. In 1937, photographer Harold Cazneaux captured it in a photo called Spirit of Endurance for its striking display of strength in a harsh environment. Cazneaux described the tree as conveying the “spirit of Australia” and that same phrase was later used as the Qantas Airlines slogan for a period of time. The Cazneaux Tree has become so beloved it’s now registered as a “Significant Tree.” You’ll find this beauty in Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia, accessible by car via the Flinders Range Way.
With its massive trunk and dense canopy, the ceiba tree is revered as the tree of life—and for some, death. A ceiba tree is typically alive with activity: frogs raise their young in the bromeliads, mammals traverse the limbs, and birds feast and nest in the canopy. Some cultures believe the souls of the dead also make their home here. Mayans saw the ceiba as a symbolic “tree of the universe” with its deep roots into the underworld, steady trunk in the human world, and umbrella-shaped canopy reaching into the heavens. Ceibas can be found in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and West Africa.
Visit Xcaret, Mexico and learn more about their Mayan meaning. Or head to Costa Rica for some meditation or forest bathing at the base of the 500-year old, nearly 200-foot tall ceiba tree, located on Malte Baron von Schlippenbach’s farm in Nuevo Arenal.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re searching for a magical wedding altar, Blue Butterfly Events can even arrange for you to say “I do” in the presence of this award-winning wonder or another near Tenorio Volcano National Park or Chachagua Rainforest Lodge.
No fall colors FOMO for this deciduous conifer. While it could easily be mistaken for an evergreen during the summer months, the larch’s needle-like leaves go for the gold in autumn, adding a gorgeous splash of yellow to numerous forests in the northern hemisphere. You’ll find European larch in the Alps, American larch in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, eastern larch in Manitoba, and western larches in the Inland and Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and the Candian Rockies of British Columbia and Alberta.
INSIDER TIPCombine your larch-peeping adventures with wildlife or wellness activities for an invigorating autumn escape. Visit northern Manitoba—where the larch-speckled boreal forest meets the stark Arctic tundra—for polar bear trekking and nature walks with Churchill Wild. Or hike Banff in October after the peak leaf-peepers head home, and catch the colorful larch just before they drop their leaves. While in Banff, you can create a deeper connection to the trees through a “forest bathing excursion” with Forest Fix or learn about the land and the many uses of local plants on a medicine walk with First Nations guides from Mahikan Trails.
They say you shouldn’t cut off your nose to spite your face—but what about trimming a limb to save your water? When in drought, the kokerboom does exactly that: It self-amputates its branches. This tree is technically a giant aloe that can grow up to 30-feet tall and is found in parts of South Africa and Namibia. Don’t be deceived by the shimmering “bark,” bright-colored blooms (seen in the summertime), and charming appearance; you should be cautious if you get close. The bark is so sharp it can be used to make arrows, earning it the nickname “quiver tree.”
Like a badly behaving house guest, this “strangler fig” drops by without notice, takes over, and literally puts down roots. Banyan trees are formed when seeds of the strangler fig land on branches of other trees and spread their roots toward the ground, eventually forming what appears as multiple trunks but is actually the fig tree’s root system.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a tree with such a grim nickname, they are associated with the Hindu god of death and believed by some to house spirits. On the bright side, banyan trees are also symbolic of longevity, and Ayurvedic practice makes use of the medicinal properties of the leaf, bark, seeds, and stems. The Great Banyan Tree is located at Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden near Kolkata, India. It’s the largest one in the world, is around 250 years old and covers 3.5 acres. You can find this species of fig strangling trees—and even temples and Buddha statues—in places like Thailand, Cambodia, and Hawaii.
Although you’ll never be able to fully wrap your arms around the towering kauri trees (the “lord of the forest,” Tāne Mahuta, the largest living kauri tree, has a girth of around 50 feet!), you can feel their ethereal energy on a Footprints Waipoua walk through Waipoua Forest, where 75% of New Zealand’s kauri trees are found. Maori guides teach visitors about the kauri’s significance through storytelling and song.
The trees are sacred to the Maori and it’s believed that the health of the kauri is symbolic of the health of the forest and people. Kauri are currently threatened by kauri dieback, a fungus-like organism. Maori knowledge may hold the key to protecting these ancient trees.
INSIDER TIPJoin a Twilight Encounter for a hair-raising, spiritual experience in the forest.
It’s not often you spot a bedazzled tree while on safari. The Oreteti, as it’s called by the Maasai, stands watch in front of Nomad Tanzania’s Entamanu Ngorongoro camp, overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater. This fig tree has spiritual significance to the Ilkisongo clan of the Maasai and is a place where they may come to pray for the end of a drought, sickness, or other misfortune, sometimes leaving behind a bangle or beaded bracelet to attach their wish to the tree. Over the years, these bangles have become part of the Oreteti. The Maasai still come to this tree to pray and you might also see passersby drop a handful of grass at the base of the tree to show their respect.
Walking amongst these gnarled and knotted giants will transport you to a dreamy moss-covered paradise painted with calming shades of brown and green. Immerse yourself in the ancient forest at Vancouver Island’s Avatar Grove, located in the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation near Port Renfrew, the “Tall Trees Capital of Canada.” Here, you’ll find Douglas firs, cedars, and Sitka spruce trees as well as “Canada’s gnarliest tree.”
While you’re on Vancouver Island, don’t forget to pay a visit to 1,000-year-old Big Lonely Doug, the second-largest Douglas fir in all of Canada. When the trees around him were clear-cut for logging, he was spared, thanks to a ribbon and note left by logger Dennis Cronin. Big Lonely Doug stands tall (230 feet to be exact), solo, and now protected by law as a symbol of the need to preserve—rather than harvest—old-growth forests.
This iconic alienesque tree is everything: tall (it can grow to 65 feet), old (it can live for 3,000 years), wise (it stores water in the trunk so it can produce nutrient-rich fruit in the dry season), and some say, upside-down with branches that look like roots raised to the sky.
Baobabs provide food, water, and shelter to animals and insects, and a long list of benefits to humans. You can strip baobab bark to make baskets, rope, and waterproof hats and it will regenerate new bark. You can boil baobab leaves to treat a variety of maladies or make vitamin-rich juices and jams from the fruits. You can press the seeds for cosmetics or cooking oil. These are just a few of the more than 300 uses for the baobab. This generous tree seems to spend its existence giving life to everything around it. And when a baobab does finally die, it rots from the inside and collapses abruptly into a simple pile of fibers, appearing to vanish into thin air. You can find baobab in Australia, Madagascar, mainland Africa, and the Arabian peninsula.