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Monday, December 14, 2009

The $2,500 Bottle of Green Tea

You could run to almost any supermarket and purchase a bottle of green tea for about a dollar, but that would be a huge mistake. Why not opt to spend a quarter million percent more for "super premium" green tea?

Packaged like a fine wine, Royal Blue Tea is offering a limited time, high-end green tea for an astounding $2,500 per bottle. Apparently the leaves are hand picked (or something like that) and presumably infused with about $2,499 worth of champagne and truffle oil. Otherwise we're assuming it would be hard to justify the outrageous price tag. However, if you're ready to shell out top dollar for a bottle of green tea and can navigate through a non-English website, you can find more information here.


Via eGenki

Small price to pay: NYers' love for tiny apartments


They do their dishes in the shower, sit sideways on the toilet and need to watch their weight just to fit into their bathrooms.

But these cramped New Yorkers wouldn't have it any other way.

A week after The Post told the story of Zaarath and Christopher Prokop and their 175-square-foot micro-studio on Sunday, other New Yorkers lined up to share their tales of living small, including a 55-square-foot apartment in Hell's Kitchen and a 90-square-foot home on the Upper West Side.


"To me, it's all about location," said Eddie Rabon, 24, who lives in a microscopic Hell's Kitchen abode. "I'm in an amazing neighborhood, and the money I save on rent alone lets me really enjoy New York for what it is. My apartment is a place to hang my hat and catch a few hours of sleep. That's it."

Eddie Rabon
Angel Chevrestt
Eddie Rabon

55 sq. ft., Hell’s Kitchen

When freelance event planner Eddie Rabon talks about his itty-bitty pad — just one square foot larger than a Rikers Island jail cell — the excitement is clear in his voice.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s a great neighborhood in the greatest city. It’s about $800 a month. You won’t find that price anywhere else in this area. I feel like the money I save not having to get on the train to get around because I’m in the center of everything is worth it.”

Rabon said the longest wall in his apartment is 121/2 feet, and that includes the apartment door. At its narrowest spot, he can spread his arms and almost touch both opposing walls. He said he has trouble turning around in his little shower, and said taller friends have been unable to close the bathroom door if they need to sit.

“The bathroom has an airplane sink turned lengthwise,” he said. “So I can’t actually fit in over the sink

90 sq. ft., UWS

The first night Felice Cohen, 39, slept in her tiny apartment — with a full-size loft bed only 23 inches from the ceiling — she had a “panic attack.”

“But now I love it. It’s cozy,” she said of the 12-by-7-foot place, which rents for just over $700 a month.

Her tiny bathroom is a challenge, though: “I had to learn to sit sideways on the toilet so I don’t bang my leg on the tub.”

105 sq. ft., Greenwich Village

Genevieve Shuler, 31, always knew she wanted to live near Washington Square Park, the neighborhood her parents once called home. “When I first walked in, I thought, ‘This is really incredibly tiny,’” she said of the $780-a-month pad. “There were no closets, no real kitchen. But I knew I could do more with it . Once I knew my loft bed could fit, I took it.” When it comes time to do the dishes, because the kitchen sink is so small, “I do them in the shower.”

HDI's 100-inch, laser-driven 3D HDTV gets $10k to $15k price tag

Thought Mitsubishi's LaserVue set was pricey? Hah. HDI, the California startup with dreams of producing a 100-inch 3D HDTV that's driven by lasers, has just released the first hint of a price range, and as predicted, it ain't cheap. The set -- which has already been deemed a favorite by The Woz -- has reportedly had its first batch manufactured over in China, and we're told that a smattering of 'em should be available by May. If all goes well, the HDTV should be in full-scale production mode by Christmas of next year, and we've learned that the whole thing will measure around 10-inches thick. Amazingly, it'll also go relatively easy on the power meter, but the $10,000 to $15,000 price estimate is bound to shock some. Of course, Panasonic's own 103-inch 3D HDTV is currently pegged at around $75,000, so when you think of it from that perspective, HDI's offering is a bona fide bargain. And totally worth liquidating your future kid's college fund for.

25 Authentic Asian Experiences

From taking in the towering mountain ranges flanking the Karakoram Highway to a tall, pink glass of air bandung, here are 25 places to go, people to see and things to try across Asia

Catch a Fly Ball at the Tokyo Dome

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Ian Teh / Panos

Men in tights try to swat a ball over a fence with a wooden stick. It may look familiar, but where else can you get a side of battered octopus balls with those hot dogs and nachos? Welcome to Japanese baseball at the 55,000-seat, inflatable Tokyo Dome, home to the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. More World Cup than World Series, here the crowd has a different chant for every player, and roving beer girls pour Kirin drafts from pony kegs on their backs. No worries if you spill one on the salaryman who bear-hugs you after every Giants homer. But if the visitors take the lead, please don't boo. The bleacher nuts at Fenway would never, ever be so nice, but in Japan, it just wouldn't be polite.

— By Tim Kindseth

View the full list for "25 Authentic Asian Experiences"

Colorado's Green Rush: Medical marijuana

By Jim Spellman, CNN

Zack Moore says he will make about $6,000 after six months of growing marijuana.
Zack Moore says he will make about $6,000 after six months of growing marijuana.
  • Denver strip of medical marijuana businesses nicknamed "Broadsterdam" by locals
  • State senator says it's easier to get a medical marijuana license than a liquor license
  • Boom in marijuana business likened to 49ers during the gold rush

Denver, Colorado (CNN) -- Driving down Broadway, it's easy to forget you are in the United States. Amid the antique stores, bars and fast-food joints occupying nearly every block are some of Denver's newest businesses: medical marijuana dispensaries.

The locals call this thoroughfare "Broadsterdam." As in Amsterdam, Netherlands, these businesses openly advertise their wares, often with signs depicting large green marijuana leaves.

"The American capitalist system is working," said attorney and medical marijuana advocate Rob Corry.

It's a matter of supply and demand.

"The demand has always been there," he said, "and the demand is growing daily because more doctors are willing to do this, and now businesses, entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops are cropping up to create a supply."

Colorado voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000. For years, patients could get small amounts from "caregivers," the term for growers and dispensers who could each supply only five patients. In 2007, a court lifted that limit and business boomed.

Between 2000 and 2008, the state issued about 2,000 medical marijuana cards to patients. That number has grown to more than 60,000 in the last year.

State Sen. Chris Romer, a Democrat whose south Denver district includes Broadsterdam, said the state receives more than 900 applications a day.

"It's growing so fast, it's like the old Wild West," Romer said. "This reminds me of 1899 in Cripple Creek, Colorado, when somebody struck gold. Every 49er in the country is making it for Denver to open a medical marijuana dispensary."

They're calling it the Green Rush.

Interactive: Taking your medicine
Video: Marijuana family business

Corry, who has represented defendants in medical marijuana cases for years, is taking a different role: He has formed the Colorado Wellness Association, a trade group representing medical marijuana growers and providers.

"We want to be the Better Business Bureau of marijuana," he said.

On the 28th floor of a downtown building with a great view of the Rocky Mountains, Corry's office is adorned with vintage posters. One reads "Marihuana: Assassin of Youth!"

In the corner sits a plastic 6-foot marijuana plant. It's a prop from the TV show "Weeds," about a suburbanite mother who begins selling marijuana to make extra cash, Corry said.

The lagging economy has created an opening for medical marijuana, Corry said. As governments struggle for new sources of revenue, the prospect of taxing medical marijuana can be enticing.

The dispensaries are "paying taxes, hiring employees, renting out space, purchasing supplies and moving this economy along," he said. "Local governments need to get on the bandwagon and start realizing this is a major source of revenue and it can help us cure our bankrupt governments."

The association aims to get a larger supply of marijuana into the dispensaries and make sure it is safe, Corry said.

See the different ways to use marijuana

"What we're looking at is quality control," he said. "We have the technology to make sure there's no harmful toxins, pesticides."

Bob Winnicki is a 35-year-old analyst and co-owner of Full Spectrum Laboratories, which the wellness association uses for testing.

"We're trying to get away from smelling, texture, color" as a measure of quality cannabis, he said, adding that he prefers "hard analytical data."

Wearing a dress shirt and tie under a white lab coat, Winnicki opens envelopes with samples of marijuana dropped off by growers and dispensers. He puts the marijuana into test tubes and mixes it with a solution to create a greenish liquid. The test tube goes into a machine that performs a chemical analysis.

The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. But Winnicki said it's other, less understood components that may provide much of the claimed medicinal benefits.

Winnicki is not a marijuana user, he said. In July, he took a break from medical school to start the lab because he loves "the science" behind medical marijuana and thinks the market is wide open, he said.

"There's a lot of money to be had in it, and there's a lot of jobs and growth that can come out of it," he said.

Across the city, entrepreneurs are trying to get in on the Green Rush. In a northwest Denver neighborhood, Aaron Randle is tending to his new shop, Sunnyside Alternative Medicine.

He opened in September and said he has about 100 customers so far.

Read about a mother and son who grow marijuana

"I've been an electrician for eight years and before that I had a cable contracting company. It's always been a dream to work for myself," he said. "I'm very passionate about marijuana."

I personally haven't tried it yet, but I'm not saying someday before I'm done I won't.
--State Sen. Chris Romer on medical marijuana

Customers drop by his modest storefront operation and take a seat in a small waiting room. It's no different than a dentist's office except the magazine rack is stuffed with High Times, a publication for marijuana buffs, instead of Sports Illustrated and parenting magazines.

One at a time, customers survey a display case full of marijuana strains as well as marijuana-infused brownies, taffy and lollipops. Maui Waui and Purple Kush are popular strains. It costs $50 for an eighth of an ounce, $54 with tax. Purchases go into a plastic prescription bottle and then into a white bag that reads, "Prescriptions. Thank You!"

Randle proudly displays his business license on the wall.

"There's a lot of jobs created because of medical marijuana," he said. "You have employees that work at the dispensaries, then you have vendors that are getting paid. ... Real estate is booming right now. Warehouses are getting rented out for grow operations."

What Randle calls "vendors" are marijuana growers, a mix of people who operate "grow houses," where the plants are cultivated using elaborate lighting systems, or small-scale farmers who operate in rural areas.

Zack Moore is a grower with a small greenhouse operation in southern Colorado. He also is a medical marijuana patient. A snowboarding accident knocked out his two front teeth, and he smokes marijuana for relief from various aches and pains, he said.

He rolls a joint and lights up before having a seat in a rocking chair in the afternoon sun. With a basket of marijuana in front of him, he uses toenail scissors to trim the dried plants. When he's done, he will have made about $6,000 for six months work, he said.

Though he hopes to do better next season, he's happy to be working.

"I build houses for a living. There's not many houses to be built right now."

Not everyone is happy with the changes the legalization of medical marijuana has brought to the state.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the amendment to the state constitution that allowed the new businesses is flawed.

"Colorado has seen a rapid proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries and patients since the Justice Department earlier this year announced it would not actively prosecute medical marijuana businesses -- despite the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law," he said in an October statement.

"Amendment 20, written by marijuana-legalization proponents, is very vague. Our state lawmakers must give clarification to Amendment 20 and create a regulatory scheme for the growing medical marijuana industry."

State Sen. Romer concurs. "Right now it's easier to get a medical marijuana license than it is to get a liquor license," he said.

Currently, patients need to see a doctor only one time to get a recommendation that enables them to buy medical marijuana. Patients can choose to pay $90 to file with the state and receive a card identifying them as medical marijuana patients. The cards do not expire.

To become a provider or grower of medical marijuana, entrepreneurs need to have a patient name them as a caregiver when they file for a medical marijuana card.

Romer said he doesn't want to limit legitimately sick people's access to medical marijuana, but he doesn't want to see the state law turned into de facto legalization of marijuana.

"Amendment 20 never dealt with where you got the medical marijuana," he said. "We're going to license the growers and we're going to license the caregivers."

Romer wants to keep marijuana out of the hands of teenagers and hopes to channel some of the revenues into programs to treat substance abuse.

One of the most difficult aspects for lawmakers is how to define true medical need. Romer is keeping an open mind.

"I think you're having a lot of baby boomers who, all of us, are feeling a lot of aches and pains [and] are going to decide to try medical marijuana," he said. "I personally haven't tried it yet, but I'm not saying someday before I'm done I won't."

Q&A: J.J. Abrams


J.J. Abrams on the set of "Star Trek"

The writer-director's career goes into warp speed with 'Star Trek'

By Jay Fernandez


It's easy to forget that J.J. Abrams, who has been knocking around the business for 20 years, has only directed two films. His font of brainy TV series -- from "Felicity" and "Alias" to "Lost" and "Fringe" -- has so saturated pop culture that he's now practically a brand. A screenwriter for years, he finally stepped behind the feature camera in 2006, directing "Mission: Impossible III." This year, he captained a reboot of "Star Trek" to $383 million worldwide and the movie may also break into the best picture race. He recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Jay Fernandez.

The Hollywood Reporter: Was there any part of making "Star Trek" that felt personal?

J.J. Abrams: Quite a bit. It's a story about family and friendship and loyalty and finding your place and your way and being insecure about any number of things. And that is a universal idea that doesn't need to take place in space; it can take place anywhere -- and that idea feels very personal. I found myself surprisingly connected to a character called James T. Kirk. I found myself loving a character whose name was Spock. And as someone who was never really a "Star Trek" fan and who never really connected with any of the characters, it was the last thing in the world I ever expected.

THR: The movie has been embraced by geek culture. How do you feel about the rise of that?

Abrams: If you look back, there's always been a certain level of fantasy, science fiction, horror. The only litmus test that I ever have is: Is the thing that we're working on the thing I want to go see? It's always just about trying to work on the stuff that you feel like you yourself would go out and go see. If you start trying to anticipate what an audience is going to like and not like, you're probably in trouble.

THR: How do you see your relationship with fans?

More awards coverage
Abrams: I am obviously indebted to them. The great thing about getting a consensus because of the Internet is it allows you to really hear what the audience is feeling. It's a wonderful tool to understand what's working and what's not working. Because I do try and work on the kinds of projects that I want to go see, I don't feel like my audience is any different from my friends or myself -- I feel like I am those people.

THR: You like to meet with random people who interest you. What's the impulse there?

Abrams: It's just people who have inspired me over time. Probably the greatest perk of the job is being able to make contact with people who were your heroes in some form or another. There's no agenda other than wanting to hear their story and try to glean from it what you can.

THR: Have you ever pulled anything concrete from those meetings that has made its way into your work?

Abrams: It really is just about trying to personalize the inspiration. When there's someone whose music you love or whose paintings you love or whose writing you love or whose acting you love -- when you meet with them, you discover that you actually know them better than you even thought. I've done this for a long time. I was a kid and I was sending letters to people like Dick Smith, the makeup artist. I have letters from various people, mostly in film, whose work I loved as a kid. Whether it's cartoonists or composers or astronauts or synthesizer builders, I have been able to contact these people and benefit from just hearing them share their experiences. You can always find some analogy in what someone else goes through -- whether it's just the pure insecurity of what they were doing and uncertainty as to what would result that you take to heart and is comforting, or the reminder that these people were up against all sorts of obstacles, political or social or cultural or monetary, and you see that these people simply didn't give up and overcame whatever their challenges were.

THR: How do you feel about the balance of your career right now, between writing, directing and producing? Do you wish you were doing more or less of one or the other?

Abrams: Not necessarily. It's hard to quantify the value of one or the other, but the balance feels good. The litmus test is: Are these things that I would be really annoyed if I saw them and I didn't have anything to do with them? I do wish that there were more hours in the day. The balance between family and work is the more important challenge that you've got to solve.

THR: Do you feel any pressure to direct movies more often?

Abrams: There are so many things that I should not be directing. A lot of times I look at something and I think, "Oh my God, that would be amazing. I would completely f*** that up." I just know that there are things I probably am not capable of, and then there are other things that I'm not sure if I am, and those are the things that excite me the most. The things that I know I could do are the things that I would probably screw up just as much. When you're too in your comfort zone, it's not necessarily the most creative thing. But I hope to direct a movie next year.

THR: And what's that going to be?

Abrams: It's just this thing I'm writing right now. It's taken longer to write the script than I was hoping.

THR: What's the most exciting recent development you've seen in the industry?

Abrams: One of the coolest things is this camera technology and how the tools for creating images and telling stories -- whether it's the camera or even postproduction consumer products like After Effects and Final Cut Pro -- are essentially democratized now. There is no barrier anymore between the person who wants to make a movie and tell a story and the person who's making the movie.

THR: Are there ever drawbacks to keeping your own projects so mysterious?

Abrams: I feel like any kind of project has a shelf-life risk to it, whether it exists as a film or it exists as an idea that's in the ether. You don't want things to be played with or speculated about or discussed, examined or investigated before they even exist. It can destroy the thing. Because I guarantee you it (can) negatively affect my actually writing the thing. I would have felt like it was ruined somehow by having been discussed. I can't tell you how many times I've had an idea and discussed it with simply one too many people. I just have no more interest left in actually creating it.

10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World.

Posted by Alex in Neatorama Only

"A tree is a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food,
warmth and protection to all living things. It even gives shade to
those who wield an axe to cut it down
" – Buddha.

There are probably hundreds of majestic and magnificent trees in the world – of these, some are particularly special:

10. Lone Cypress in Monterey

The Lone Cypress
(Image credit: bdinphoenix [flickr])

Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach
(Image credit: mikemac29 [flickr])

Buffeted by the cold Pacific Ocean wind, the scraggly Lone Cypress [wiki] (Cupressus macrocarpa) in Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula, California, isn’t a particularly large tree. It makes up for its small size, however, with its iconic status as a stunningly beautiful tree in splendid isolation, framed by an even more beautiful background of the Pacific Ocean.

9. Circus Trees

As a hobby, bean farmer Axel Erlandson [wiki] shaped trees – he pruned, bent, and grafted trees into fantastic shapes and called them "Circus Trees." For example, to make this "Basket Tree" arborsculpture, Erlandson planted six sycamore trees in a circle and then grafted them together to form the diamond patterns.

Basket Circus Tree
Basket Tree (Image credit: jpeepz [flickr])

Circus Tree with Two Legs
The two-legged tree (Image credit: Vladi22, Wikipedia)

Ladder Tree
Ladder tree (Image credit: Arborsmith)

Axel Erlandson underneath a Circus Tree
Axel Erlandson underneath one of his arborsculpture (Image credit: Wilma Erlandson, Cabinet Magazine)

Erlandson was very secretive and refused to reveal his methods on how to grow the Circus Trees (he even carried out his graftings behind screens to protect against spies!) and carried the secrets to his grave.

The trees were later bought by millionaire Michael Bonfante, who transplanted them to his amusement park Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy in 1985.

8. Giant Sequoias: General Sherman

General Sherman Tree
(Image credit: Humpalumpa [flickr])

Giant Sequoias [wiki] (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which only grow in Sierra Nevada, California, are the world’s biggest trees (in terms of volume). The biggest is General Sherman [wiki] in the Sequoia National Park – one behemoth of a tree at 275 feet (83.8 m), over 52,500 cubic feet of volume (1,486 m³), and over 6000 tons in weight.

General Sherman is approximately 2,200 years old – and each year, the tree adds enough wood to make a regular 60-foot tall tree. It’s no wonder that naturalist John Muir said "The Big Tree is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the greatest of living things."

For over a century there was a fierce competition for the title of the largest tree: besides General Sherman, there is General Grant [wiki] at King’s Canyon National Park, which actually has a
larger circumference (107.5 feet / 32.77 m vs. Sherman’s 102.6 feet / 31.27 m).

In 1921, a team of surveyors carefully measured the two
giants – with their data, and according to the complex American Forestry Association system of judging a tree, General Grant should have been award the title of largest tree – however, to simplify the matter, it was later determined that in this case, volume, not point system, should be the determining factor.

7. Coast Redwood: Hyperion and Drive-Thru Trees

Stratosphere GiantThere is another sequoia species (not to be confused with Giant Sequoia) that is quite remarkable: the Coast Redwood [wiki] (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest trees in the world.

The reigning champion is a tree called Hyperion in the Redwood National Park, identified by researcher Chris Atkins and amateur naturalist Michael Taylor in 2006. Measuring over 379 feet (155.6 115 m) tall, Hyperion beat out the previous record holder Stratosphere Giant [wiki] in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park (at 370 feet / 112.8 m).

The scientists aren’t talking about the exact location of Hyperion: the terrain is difficult, and they don’t want a rush of visitors to come and trample the tree’s root system.

[Image: The Stratosphere Giant - still an impressive specimen, previously the world's tallest tree until dethroned by Hyperion in 2006.]

That’s not all that’s amazing about the Coast Redwood: there are four giant California redwoods big enough that you can drive your car through them!

The most famous of the drive-through trees is the Chandelier Tree [wiki] in Leggett, California. It’s a 315 foot tall redwood tree, with a 6 foot wide by 9 foot tall hole cut through its base in the 1930s.

Chandelier Tree
Chandelier Tree. (Image credit: hlh-abg [flickr])

6. Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse

Chapel Oak Tree
Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse (Image credit: Old trees in Netherlands & Europe)

Chapel Oak Tree
(Image credit: dm1795 [flickr])

Chapel Oak Tree
(Image credit: Luc Doudet)

The Chêne-Chapelle (Chapel-Oak) of Allouville-Bellefosse is the most famous tree in France – actually, it’s more than just a tree: it’s a building and a religious monument all in one.

In 1669, l’Abbe du Detroit and du Cerceau decided to build a chapel in (at that time) a 500 years old or so oak (Quercus robur) tree made hollow by a lightning bolt. The priests built a small altar to the Virgin Mary. Later on, a second chapel and a staircase were added.

Now, parts of the tree are dead, the crown keeps becoming smaller and smaller every year, and parts of the tree’s bark, which fell off due to old age, are covered by protective oak shingles. Poles and cables support the aging tree, which in fact, may not live much longer. As a symbol, however, it seems that the Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse may live on forever.

5. Quaking Aspen: Pando (The Trembling Giant)

Quaking Aspen Grove
Quaking Aspen (Image: Wikipedia)

Aspen Grove
Aspen grove (Image credit: scottks1 [flickr])

Aspen in winter and snow
Quaking Aspen in winter (Image credit: darkmatter [flickr])

Pando [wiki] or the Trembling Giant in Utah is actually a colony of a single Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) tree. All of the trees (technically, "stems") in this colony are genetically identical (meaning, they’re exact clones of one another). In fact, they are all a part of a single living organism with an enormous underground root system.

Pando, which is Latin for "I Spread," is composed of about 47,000 stems spread throughout 107 acres of land. It estimated to weigh 6,600 tons, making it the heaviest known organism. Although the average age of the individual stems are 130 years, the entire organism is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!

4. Montezuma Cypress: The Tule Tree

Tule Tree next to a church
The Tule Tree Towers over a church next to it (Image credit: jubilohaku [flickr])

Girth of the Tule Tree
Full width of the Tule Tree (Image credit: Gengiskanhg, Wikipedia)

Detail of knotted burl of the Tule Tree
Close-up of the tree’s gnarled trunk. Local legends say that you can make out animals like jaguars and elephants in the trunk, giving the tree the nickname of "the Tree of Life" (Image credit: jvcluis [flickr])

El Árbol del Tule [wiki] ("The Tule Tree") is an especially large Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. This tree has the largest trunk girth at 190 feet (58 m) and trunk diameter at 37 feet (11.3 m). The Tule tree is so thick that people say you don’t hug this tree, it hugs you instead!

For a while, detractors argued that it was actually three trees masquerading as one – however, careful DNA analysis confirmed that it is indeed one magnificent tree.

In 1994, the tree (and Mexican pride) were in jeopardy: the leaves were sickly yellow and there were dead branches everywhere- the tree appeared to be dying. When tree "doctors" were called in, they diagnosed the problem as dying of thirst. The prescription? Give it water. Sure enough, the tree soon recovered after a careful watering program was followed.

3. Banyan Tree: Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

The Banyan tree is named after "banians" or Hindu traders who carry out their business under the tree. Even if you have never heard of a Banyan tree (it was the tree used by Robinson Crusoe for his treehouse), you’d still recognize it. The shape of the giant tree is unmistakable: it has a majestic canopy with aerial roots running from the branches to the ground.

Banyan tree
Banyan tree (Image credit: Diorama Sky [flickr])

Banyan tree's aerial root system
Closer view of the Banyan aerial root structure (Image credit: BillyCrafton [flickr])

If you were thinking that the Banyan tree looks like the trees whose roots snake through the ruins of the Ta Prohm temple like tentacles of the jungle (Lara Croft, anyone?) at Ankor, Cambodia , you’d be right!

Banyan tree at Ta Prohm temple
Banyan tree (or is it silk-cotton tree?) in the ruins of Ta Prohm, Ankor, Cambodia
(Image Credit: Casual Chin [flickr])

One of the most famous species of Banyan, called the Sacred Fig [wiki] or Bo tree, is the Sri Maha Bodhi [wiki] tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is said that the tree was grown from a cutting from the original tree under which Buddha became enlightened in the 6th century BC.

Planted in 288 BC, it is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world, with a definitive planting date!

Banyan Tree which Buddha sat under
(Image credit: Images of Ceylon)

Sri Maha Bodhi
(Image credit: Wikipedia)

2. Bristlecone Pine: Methuselah and Prometheus, the Oldest Trees in the World.

Methuselah Grove (Image Credit: NOVA Online)

Prometheus bristlecone pine grove
Bristlecone pine grove in which Prometheus grew (Image credit: James R. Bouldin, Wikipedia)

The oldest living tree in the world is a White Mountains, California, bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) named Methuselah [wiki], after the Biblical figure who lived to 969 years old. The Methuselah tree, found at 11,000 feet above sea level, is 4,838 years old – it is not only the oldest tree but also the oldest living non-clonal organism in the world.

Before Methuselah was identified as the world’s oldest tree by Edmund Schulman in 1957, people thought that the Giant Sequoias were the world’s oldest trees at about 2,000 years old. Schulman used a borer to obtain a core sample to count the growth rings of various bristlecone pines, and found over a dozen trees over 4,000 years old.

The story of Prometheus [wiki] is even more interesting: in 1964, Donald R. Currey [wiki], then a graduate student, was taking core samples from a tree named Prometheus. His boring tool broke inside the tree, so he asked for permission from the US Forest Service to cut it down and examine the full cross section of the wood. Surprisingly the Forest Service agreed! When they examined the tree, Prometheus turned out to be about 5,000 years old, which would have made it the world’s oldest tree when the scientist unwittingly killed it!

Stump of Prometheus
Stump of the Prometheus Tree. (Image Credit: James R. Bouldin, Wikipedia)

Today, to protect the trees from the inquisitive traveler, the authorities are keeping their location secret (indeed, there are no photos identifying Methuselah for fear of vandalism).

1. Baobab

The amazing baobab [wiki] (Adansonia) or monkey bread tree can grow up to nearly 100 feet (30 m) tall and 35 feet (11 m) wide. Their defining characteristic: their swollen trunk are actually water storage – the baobab tree can store as much as 31,700 gallon (120,000 l) of water to endure harsh drought conditions.

Baobab trees are native to Madagascar (it’s the country’s national tree!), mainland Africa, and Australia. A cluster of "the grandest of all" baobab trees (Adansonia grandidieri) can be found in the Baobab Avenue, near Morondava, in Madagascar:

Baobab Avenue
(Image credit: Fox-Talbot, Wikipedia)

(Image credit: plizzba [flickr])

Baobab at sunset
(Image credit: Daniel Montesino [flickr])

In Ifaty, southwestern Madagascar, other baobabs take the form of bottles, skulls, and even teapots:

Teapot baobab
Teapot baobab (Image credit: Gilles Croissant)

The baobab trees in Africa are amazing as well:

Baobab in Tanzania
Baobab in Tanzania (Image credit: telethon [flickr])

Another baobab in Africa
Baobab near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Image credit: ironmanix [flickr])

There are many practical uses of baobab trees, like for a toilet:

Toilet inside a baobab tree
A toilet built inside a baobab tree in the Kayila Lodge, Zambia
(Image credit: Steve Makin [flickr])

… and even for a prison:

Prison boab
A "Prison Baob" tree in Western Australia (Image credit: yewenyi [flickr])

Bonus: Tree That Owns Itself

Tree that Owns Itself
Son of the Tree That Owns Itself (Image Credit: Bloodofox, Wikipedia)

Legend has it that the Tree That Owns Itself [wiki], a white oak in Athens, Georgia was given ownership of itself and the surrounding land by Dr. William Henry Jackson in 1820! The original tree had died long ago, but a new tree (Son of The Tree That Owns Itself) was planted at the same location from one of its acorns.

Bonus 2: The Lonely Tree of Ténéré

Tree of Tenere
The Tree of Ténéré in the 1970s, before a truck crashed into it (Image credit: Peter Krohn)

The Tree of Ténéré or L’Abre du Ténéré was the world’s most isolated tree – the solitary acacia, which grew in the Sahara desert in Niger, Africa, was the only tree within more than 250 miles (400 km) around.

The tree was the last surviving member of a group of acacias that grew when the desert wasn’t as dry. When scientists dug a hole near the tree, they found its roots went down as deep as 120 feet (36 m) below to the water table!

Apparently, being the only tree in that part of the wide-open desert (remember: there wasn’t another tree for 250 miles around), wasn’t enough to stop a drunk Libyan truck driver from driving his truck into it, knocking it down and killing it!

Now, a metal sculpture was placed in its spot to commemorate the Lonely Tree of Ténéré:

Metal sculpture of Tenere tree
(Image credit: Nomad’s Land, main website)

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this list is far from complete: there are many more magnificent trees in the world (for instance, see the List of Famous Trees [wiki]). If you have any addition of noteworthy tree (and stories about trees), please leave it in the comment section.