It is 1,500 years old and is the largest of all living giant kauri trees

Tāne Mahuta, a huge New Zealand tree that looks like it came out of a JRR Tolkien book

The British writer J.R.R. Tolkien was a great lover of trees. In his work there are some trees with a very prominent role.

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In addition to characters like Treebeard and the Ents, who were shepherds of trees, Tolkien spoke in his work of trees as important as the Two Trees of Valinor, Telperion (the largest and with silver light) and Laurelin (of golden light), created by Yavanna and which for more than 14,000 years (the so-called Ages of Trees) would have given light to the Undying Lands. After the destruction of the Two Trees, Yavanna created another lesser-known tree, Galathilion, similar to Telperion and from which the famous White Tree of Minas Tirith would be a descendant.

A photo of the Tāne Mahuta in 2014, with its base protected with fences to prevent people from causing the spread of the so-called kauri dieback (Photo: itravelNZ).

New Zealand is a country that is worldwide associated with Tolkien's most famous work, "The Lord of the Rings", because it was the country chosen by the New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson to film his film trilogy about that literary work. Curiously, on the North Island of that country there is a huge tree that looks like something out of Tolkien's work: Tāne Mahuta, a giant kauri (Agathis australis) that was discovered in January 1924 in the forest Waipoua, Northland.

The whitish bark of the Tāne Mahuta is very reminiscent of trees such as Telperion and Galathilion from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien (Photo: Department of Conservation).

Tāne Mahuta is the largest of all known living giant kauri trees. According to the Department of Conservation Government of New Zealand, its total height is 51.2 meters, with a circumference of 13.77 meters. A very striking characteristic of this tree is that it has a whitish-looking bark that is reminiscent of Tolkien's stories about Telperion and Galathilion.

The majestic image of the Tāne Mahuta lives up to its nickname "Lord of the Forest" (Photo: itravelNZ).

The name Tāne Mahuta, also called the "Lord of the Forest", is related to Māori mythology about the creation of the world, in which there was a god called Tāne (also known as Tāne-Mahuta or Tāne-nui-a-Rangi) who was the god of the forests. Tāne was the son of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, deities that the Māori identified respectively with the father of heaven and the mother of earth. Ranginui and Papatūānuku were tightly embraced and Tāne was the only one capable of separating them, creating the necessary space for the appearance of humanity, which Maori mythology also attributes to Tāne, who is considered the creator of the first man, called Tiki, and of all the creatures of the forest.

The trees that surround the Tāne Mahuta are tall, but the "Lord of the Forest" leaves them small (Photo: Tatters).

It is estimated that Tāne Mahuta is 1,500 years old, that is, it was already a centenary tree when the Muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the year 711. Colin Tudge (The secret life of trees: how they live and why they matter, 2006) wrote about it: "It is surrounded by other enormous trees, but it makes them seem ordinary. Its trunk rises out of the gloom like an iceberg in the Southern ocean. The mass of epiphytes it holds aloft in its great spreading boughs is a fantastical, floating garden. It must have supported entire dynasties of lizards and invertebrates who never went anywhere else and must have thought, if they could think at all, that Tane Mahuta was the whole world."

It is estimated that this tree is 1,500 years old (Photo: itravelNZ).

Today, Tāne Mahuta is the most famous tree in New Zealand. This can be a problem, since the tree is visited by a multitude of tourists, so in 2015 the New Zealand Government had to publish some hygienic measures to prevent visitors from infecting this tree with the so-called kauri dieback which is transmitted from one tree to another. One of the measures is to clean the dirt from your shoes before visiting this Lord of the Forest.

For this reason, the New Zealand Department of Conservation published a nice animated video explaining the history of this giant tree and the measures that must be followed to preserve it:


Main photo: itravelNZ.

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