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As far as age goes, the 220-year-old apple tree in Krolevets, Ukraine, is a young pup. After all, California's giant sequoias and redwoods have been around for thousands of years. However, none can do what this unique tree has been able to - Self-propagate a colony of fifteen family trees that combined cover an area of 1,000 sq. meters (10,763 sq.feet).
According to locals, the tree started out as a regular apple tree. As its aging branches began to stoop lower, they touched the ground and took root, creating another trunk. Today the tree has 18 trunks and single-handedly covers the entire orchard. While the ancient giant still bears tasty medium-sized apples that have the perfect sweet/tart balance, it does so on half the tree, thus allowing the other side to recuperate following a harvest.
What's confounding experts is that while this method of reproduction is well-known for currant or gooseberry shrubs, it has never been seen in an apple tree before. What is even more frustrating is that despite several tries, scientists have never been able to re-create another one like it.
Maybe the secret lies in one of the many legends associated with the unique "orchard" that is believed to have been planted by Prince Peter Sergeev of the Meshchersky royal family. Some think that the tree went in mourning after his death. As the branches hung lower, they touched the ground and took root. Others believe that the tree is unique because it was planted by the Prince on the grave of his wife, who died at a very young age.
Then there are those that maintain that the tree is cursed which is why it behaves more like a gooseberry bush than an apple tree. Given that the Prince's gravestone lies underneath the original trunk, there could be some truth to one of these legends.
While Ukrainians will never know the tree's secret, the one thing they do know is that it is a treasure that needs to be protected. The "Apple Tree Colony" was declared a national monument of local importance in 1972 and even nominated as a candidate for "seven natural wonders of Ukraine" in 2008. Though it didn't make the shortlist, the tree is quite popular with tourists that visit the beautiful country.