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This time I introduce a "1000-year-old" pleached tree within the "Trees to make you happy" series. Trees are categorized as "1000-year-old" trees when we can no longer estimate their age. This by no means implies that the tree has already passed the thousand year threshold, but only that our ability to identify its age in a reliable manner is compromised. In this case, right on the spot, a sign states that several craftsmen estimate an age of over 850 years. However, a local tale suggests that the tree was planted back in 1007 in honour of the Diocese Foundation of Bamberg. No matter what, Effeltrich's Tanzlinde is an impressive and memorable monument, and it certainly belongs to the honour class of pleached trees. Effeltrich's 1000-year-old Tanzlinde is a tree to make you happy, do you already get butterflies in your stomach?

Effeltrich's 1000-year-old Tanzlinde is located in the municipality of Effeltrich, Forchheim district, state of Bayern (Germany). With only 2,550 inhabitants, this small community holds an impressive Tanzlinde right in the centre of the village. The main road passes nearby, and the tree stands on a square surrounded by several historical houses, the local inn 'Gasthof zur Linde' and the late 16th century Wehrkirche. This church was rebuilt out of the remains of a 13th century castlechurch. It is definitely a place with a long history. Effeltrich literally means “place with many apple trees”. Back in the days of Charlemagne (768-814), the area was designated as a fruit tree nursery region. The influence of this ancient fruit tree nursery tradition on the Effeltrich's Tanzlinde is quite interesting, and may give a possible explanation about why this tree was kept and maintained in an outstanding manner even before the 13th century.

Effeltrich's 1000-year-old Tanzlinde is a broad leafed lime, Tilia platyphyllos. It has only one floor, expanding to a total of 20m in diameter. When you walk under the crown towards the trunk it immediately becomes clear that it is an ancient tree; the trunk is segmenting and the branches are supported by a skeleton of wooden beams. The outer edge of the crown is delimited by a wall in which you can sit on. This wall also prevents outlaws to let their holy cows ‘graze’ under this tree.

A sign under the tree states that the linden was used for grafting fruit trees. In order to preserve a desired type of fruit (for instance, a tasty sweet apple), the only way to multiply such variety is through grafting. This may also be called vegetative propagation. If you sow the desired type of apple and multiply it by means of generative propagation, you will be disappointed as you will only harvest, after years waiting,  the sour wild apple. However, if you cut a young twig containing a bud of the sweet apple variety and connect it with a wild appletree rootstock of the same diameter, the desired apple variety will successfully grow from the graft. In case you are not familiar with it, you can watch this short clip about the grafting procedure.

It is highly important that the graft does not dry out, thus grafting wax or any other type of plastic cover is used to prevent this. However, in the book ‘Unterricht von der Anzucht, Veredlung, Pflege und Wartung der Obstbaume’  by Johann Teply (1822) it is indicated that lime bark is best suited for keeping the graft moist. “Cut lime bark strips in half el length”, said Johann Tepply. If you recognize the qualities of lime, you may imagine that the flexible bark of any young twig can be used to keep a graft in place. This is a new discovery for myself! It is definitely an interesting piece of information to explain the exceptional pruning method of the Tanzlinden before the 13th century; in fact, through frequent cutting, multiple young shoots were available for grafting purposes. These shoots were easy to reach due to the limited height of the tree. Even now the twigs of the Tanzlinde only reach a maximum of 8 meters in height. Apart from grafting, Effeltrich's Tanzlinde also was used for different activities by the community. It served as a court tree, and in the 19th and 20th centuries is was the village’s main place to hold dances. Even the local inn served a Frankish brunch until 1950 under the shade of the Tanzlinde. Nowadays, it is still a wonderful place to relax and absorb the tree, open yourself to this wonder and see an incredible amount.

Several traces of various development steps in the maintenance of trees can be seen in this Tanzlinde. Tracing back multiple generations of tree workers that took care of the tree, the maintenance probably started with fruittree growers who mainly needed young linden shoots for grafting purposes, and so it continued for most of the lifespan of this tree. It seems that this process made the tree flatter and wider over time. Then, in the early 20th century (1913) the predecessors of tree surgeons filled up the holes in the trunk with cement. Holes that were too big were bricked up with stones. They also seem to have reduced the crown diameter. The next development was carried out both in 1968 and 1977 by  tree surgeons who replaced the cement and stones with steel connections in trunk and branches. They even placed a wrought iron gate to close off the large trunk cavity. Rotten parts were also milled to “clean out” the tree and drainage pipes were set in cavities with insufficient drainage. Hopefully we learned through trial and error, and now we gratefully acknowledge the consequences of the measures taken back then. Since the early 1990s, we understand that milling wounds does more harm than good, and we exceptionally use steel anchors. It is worth mentioning though that, aligning with the current German arborist culture, plastic anchor lines have been installed in the Tanzlinde. In this particular situation, this measure seems completely meaningless since the supporting branch cannot bear the burden of the supported branch.

The last restoration of the wooden skeleton dates back to 1971. Now its beams have weakened or even disappeared and some have been replaced with steel stamps. A complete renovation of the wooden skeleton is indeed needed. It is pretty clear that Effeltrich's 1000-year-old Tanzlinde can no longer thrive without tools. However, it has gone through all of the above-mentioned maintenance measures flawlessly and it is still growing and shinning like a young girl. What a magnificent tree.

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