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Sliven, Bulgaria: home of the European tree of the year winner 2014

Old Elm Tree winner

The European Tree of the Year contest is a project of the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation which stems from the Czech national well-established Tree of the Year contest. It was developed to strengthen the communities, relationships among people and their awareness towards the environment they live in – something we believe is really important. Bulgarian national Lily Pertrova tells us about this year’s winner…

The “European Tree of the Year” competition held in 2014 was won by the Old Elm Tree – a venerable tree in the very centre of the Bulgarian city of Sliven, 10 metres east of the city hall. 77526 people voted for the elm tree, and in the race tree species from 10 cities in Europe participated. Voting was submitted on the competition website www.treeoftheyear.org. The elm tree is from the species Field Elm (Ulmus minor) and is 1100 years old.

The tree is the symbol of Sliven. For centuries it has witnessed the heroic past of the city. It is also interesting that by this tree the altitude of Sliven was previously measured, and all the major city events have occurred just there to this day. Almost everything starts near the Old Elm.

Old Elm Treejpg Photo credit: Kostas Anastasiu

Meetings are arranged near the Old Elm, the main street starts with it. Even the working day of the city hall employees starts with the tree because it is right below their windows. Far back in time this elm was not alone. There was a huge forest with old trees. To this day it has remained the only one in Sliven from this forest. The award ceremony was held on 19 March 2014 in the building of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The Bulgarian tree is a remnant of the Great Bulgarian Forest (Silva Magna Bulgarica), which extended from the Rhodope Mountains to the Black Sea. The Elm has impressive sizes – 10 metres in height and 5.65 m circumference. It is connected with the history of Sliven, especially during the time of Turkish domination. Favourites in the race were also the Hungarian wild pear in Gödöllő and the 150 year old Czech oak.

The remaining trees are located in Slovakia, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, France, Italy and Wales. The Old Elm was winner of the “Root Tree 2013” which gave it the chance to participate in the European Tree 2014 competition. Due to its popularity and admiration the Old Elm beat the competition of 29 trees from other countries.  

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