World's Loneliest Tree

World's Loneliest Tree

The most remote tree in the world is more than 170 miles from its nearest neighbor.

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Nestled in a windswept cove, the lone tree on the subantarctic Campbell Island in New Zealand shouldn't technically be there. The Sitka spruce, a northern hemisphere native, is a long way from its taxonomic cousins—and in fact, the closest tree of any kind is more than 170 miles northeast on the Auckland Islands.

The lonely tree was planted around the turn of the 20th century by New Zealand's then-governor, Lord Ranfurly. More than 100 years later, the introduced spruce is considered the most isolated tree in the world, after the former record-holder, the Tree of Ténéré in the Sahara Desert was mowed down by a drunk driver.

The conifer endures not only isolation but also the wild weather of the "Furious Fifties" latitudes. Campbell Island has the cloudiest climate in the subantarctic, with rain for 325 days and gale-force winds for 100 days of the year. Surprisingly, the spruce seems to be thriving in these conditions, growing at a rate five to ten times faster than normal.

The Loneliest Tree is a poignant reminder of the human impact on this fragile and unique ecosystem. Campbell Island was exploited by humans for whaling, sealing, and farming since its discovery in 1810. Other human imports, including destructive rats and feral cattle, have been removed, but the Sitka spruce remains, a lone sentinel.

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