Cuglieri's millennial olive tree is reborn: sprouts grow one year after the stake

Almost a year has passed since a huge fire for four days destroyed over 20 thousand hectares of forests, fields, pastures as well as industrial activities in Montiferru and Planargia, in central western Sardinia. The symbol of that devastation became the millennial olive tree of Tanca Manna, near one of the most affected towns, Cuglieri. After the stake, of the large tree that for centuries testified to the tradition of olive growing in the area and had become a natural monument, there remained ashes and some skeletal branches.

Today, the University of Cagliari, which thanks to Professor Bacchetta had immediately started the attempts to recover the tree, announced that the efforts of botanists and the attention of the population have managed to keep alive what remained of the wild olive, from which are now well visible shoots.

Last summer Gianluigi Bacchetta, professor of Botany and director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Cagliari, had rushed to Cuglieri as soon as possible to ascertain the terrible damage to the vegetation. “Few believed in the possibility of a recovery – says the professor today, who in these 10 months has continued to commute between Cagliari and Cuglieri – Many said that they were even wasting time trying to revive this plant. Instead, they had the best of the actions that have been carried out: mulching, emergency irrigation, the administration of left-handed amino acids to restore root functionality, protection of the trunk with jute sheets and then the cover to simulate the crown that was gone lost “.

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To save the tree, not only the scientific community was mobilized: to prevent the curious from frustrating the recovery actions by trampling the ground around the olive tree, the people of Cuglieri took turns to ensure that no one approached the tree. , as well as shifts to keep the soil moist.

All the interventions carried out during the autumn and winter began to give the hoped-for fruits in the spring: the plant is confirmed to be alive and vital, the shoots have exceeded 40 centimeters, and testify how this tree, which has millennia of experience, he understood what was the right moment to revegetate: “It wasn’t possible in autumn, because it was a very dry season – explains Bacchetta – Certainly he would not have wasted energy in winter, with the typical rigors and short days. He waited for spring, when conditions proved ideal “.

The botanist from Cagliari had already leaked a bit of optimism in recent months, since at Easter he had observed how in a portion of the stump there was vegetative activity and chlorophyll photosynthesis activity was taking place under the bark. “The signs were all there – says the professor today – and for this reason we kept the portion of the stump constantly moist, which proved to be the only one capable of reproducing sprouts”. In spite of those who no longer believed in the millenary olive tree and had been saying for some time that it would be good to completely eliminate everything, the plant has confirmed that it still has the ability to live.

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Of course, it will take centuries for it to return to being the majestic tree of the past, since the crown has been destroyed as well as a large part of the trunk, but the shoots will become branches and over time there will be new branches.

Hand in hand with the resuscitation of the plant, however, there was the important activity to preserve at least the “DNA” of the natural monument, in case the efforts were in vain: “As Banca del Germoplasma della Sardegna we continue to cultivate the seeds of ‘millennial olive tree – adds the director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Cagliari – because they can be useful, and as a Botanical Garden – based on the agreement with the Municipality of Cuglieri and in agreement with the Montiferru association – we continue monitoring activities and of safeguarding the Patriarch in the hope that it can become an example of resilience even for a community that, after a year, is still suffering from the harmful effects of the stake that took place and is still awaiting help from the regional government that has not yet been disbursed “.

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