Too big to fall: Centuries-old 'Forest god' tree thrives despite deep gashes

By Tran Hoa   February 26, 2024 | 04:36 pm PT
Too big to fall: Centuries-old 'Forest god' tree thrives despite deep gashes
A golden oak tree at a forest of Kon Tum Province in the Central Highlands thrives despite deep cuts on its trunk. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Hoa
A centuries-old tree in the Central Highlands' Kon Tum Province has survived several cuts in its huge trunk even as its sheer size prevents it from being carried away.

The golden oak tree, over four meters across and 35 m tall, is in Kon Pring village, Ngoc Tu Commune, under the management of the Dak To Forestry Company.

Three deep cuts of 40-60 cm each can be found on its trunk.

The local Xo Dang ethnic people believe the tree belongs to a forest god and so no one is allowed to violate it.

They often light incense to invoke the blessings of the god to protect the village from natural disasters.

"Late last year residents, authorities, the forestry company, and representatives of six communes signed an agreement to protect the forest in the vicinity of the golden oak," village head A Nao, 39, says.

He has been living near the forest for dozens of years but does not know when or how the cuts appeared on the tree, he says.

He had seen the "wounds" even as a youngster when he accompanied his father into the woods, he recalls.

"My father said the tree belonged to the forest god and should not be cut down."

He had also told him that the forest was the village's "lifeblood" and people had to protect it.

For decades now A Nao has done his part to safeguard the forest.

Whenever he visits the ancient tree he lights incense and prays to the forest god to protect the village.

There are 60 families in Kon Pring village, and all have been helping safeguard over 150 ha of forest.

Nao says: "The forest is under close protection. If anyone needs wood to build houses they must seek permission to gather fallen trees. They must not cut down living trees."

Nguyen Thanh Chung, director of the Dak To Forestry Company, says workers had cut into the old tree over 30 years ago, but had to stop mid-way after realizing it was too big to be carried out of the forest.

Its exact age is not known, but estimates put it at over 250 years. Despite the three deep cuts on its trunk, it continues to grow normally, he adds.

Golden oak trees are found widely in the Central Highlands, and their wood is used to make ships and furniture.

The "forest god" golden oak is located three kilometers from Kon Pring village.

To reach it requires crossing two streams and several scaling cliffs.

The Ngoc Tu Commune forest protection station has 13 people stationed there to manage the forest, especially the area with the giant tree.

An ancient golden oak tree in a Kon Tum forest with several deep cuts in its trunk. Video by VnExpress/Tran Hoa

A Thai, 34, who has been doing the job for 11 years, says it is the largest and tallest tree in that forest.

"It would take 10 people to wrap around it. The tree is worshiped by the people of Xo Dang, and has become a symbol of forest protection."

He says patrols are done three times a week, by a team of three or four who carry food and utensils with them and eat and sleep in the forest. Two of the village residents join with authorities in very trip, and report to the village chief and other authorities if they spot strangers.

The toughest period is during the rainy seasons, when the roads are slippery and setting up camps and lighting fires are difficult. There are also dangers like snake bites, bee stings and poachers.

"But thanks to the sheer number of forest guards, the poachers often run away," Thai adds.

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