Galicia’s programme for recognising Singular Trees is focused on those considered to be exemplary botanical specimens, whether because of their symbolic value for the residents of a particular location, or for their scientific, cultural, educational, or ornamental importance in the landscape. It is part of a broader approach to protection promoted by Galicia’s regional government, with the goal of preserving not only specific individual trees, but more extensive forest formations that have extraordinary or especially notable characteristics (size, age, historical or cultural significance, rarity, beauty, etc.).
Trees may represent some of the largest and oldest living things on our planet, and certain individual trees especially stand out because of their rarity, longevity, history, or dimensions. They are true natural monuments that have survived wars, fires, logging, and all manner of political events. In ancient times they were the subject of respect and veneration, treated almost like gods that could affect the fortunes of the local people. Humans have always had special connections with trees, and the concept of a singular tree, understood as one that is sacred or particularly important, is one that has been around since the days of antiquity.
For centuries, characteristics of trees such as size and longevity have been the subject of scientific studies. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the first initiatives to protect especially notable trees came into existence. Some of the first programmes of this type were developed in the United States, and it was not until the 1970s that similar approaches were implemented in Spain. Today, most of Spain’s individual regions maintain their own Catalogue of Singular Trees.
In general, production of these catalogues first involves creating specific protective regulations. In many cases, technical, economic, and human resources need to be dedicated to ensure the conservation and protection of the singular trees added to the corresponding catalogue. In the case of Galicia, the regional government took a significant step forward in protecting this specific type of natural heritage when it created the Catalogue of Singular Trees of Galicia. This was done through Regional Decree 67/2007 of March 22, which was later amended by Regional Decree 10/2015 of January 22. These regulations established the basic legal rules applying to trees and forest formations included in this catalogue, for the purpose of protecting them against risks and threats and thereby ensuring their preservation.
In this section we want to draw attention to all of the magnificent examples within Ribeira Sacra that belong to this Catalogue of Singular Trees of Galicia.
Guide to best practices when visiting a Singular Tree:
- Never try to climb the tree, because the impact and weight of thousands of people could surely cause damage to it.
- If you see roots running along the ground surface, do not step on them. It is also important for people not to get too close to the tree, because their weight can compact the soil and make it difficult for the roots to get oxygen.
- The bark protects the living part of the wood, which lies immediately below it. Never damage a tree by carving initials, posting signs, scratching or bark, etc.
- Do not cut or otherwise damage the tree. Remember that the tree has been in its location for hundreds of years, maybe even more than a thousand.
- Pay attention to all signs and other instructions posted in the area. Some of these trees are extremely fragile living monuments, and they require maximum care and protection.
- Also be sure to show maximum respect for the surrounding area. Do not allow others to litter or otherwise pollute the tree’s surroundings.
- Remember that some of these trees and groves are on private property, so you must always respect the pertinent boundaries when visiting.