Interesting and sometimes even touching – the stories of the finalists of the European Tree of the Year contest 2012 show the connection between people and nature. Vote for your favourite tree from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania or Slovakia until 29 February on www.treeoftheyear.org. The winning tree will be awarded at a ceremony at IUCN's office Brussels by the organizer of the contest – the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation.
A thousand-year-old pistacia from Corsica was saved by her owner Élise. When the neighbourhood was engulfed in flames, she asked the firemen to save the rare tree instead of her house. A Hungarian lime tree protects its forest as well as the Bánó family who still maintain the tradition of introducing new family members to the tree.
A classroom, a precious treasure, an honorary “freeman” and a symbol of the town – silent witness of historical events, a member of a family or a magician who can make your wishes come true – trees can mean all that to people. Stories of the finalists of the European Tree of the Year – organized for the second time – show the bond between trees and people, a family, a school or a whole town. "We are trying to make Europeans care more for trees through their stories which connect to the local communities where they are found. At the same time we want to draw attention to the protection of old trees and biodiversity," said the contest coordinator Hana Rambousková of the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation. Through this initiative people can also get to know the story of the Polish Oak “Grot” which can make dreams come true if you put your left hand on its trunk and whisper them. 700 year old Bulgarian elm tree is also a wish tree – the legend has it that it healed the blind daughter of the local miller Dobril. The story of the Czech alley shows that trees can be a valuable aid in education. The history of Slovakian lime and Romanian elm trees shows how the life of a town can be connected to the one of a tree – important agreements were made under the lime tree and the elm is the last witness of a village burning down during the revolution in the 19th century. The competition will be tough, as these finalists have won the national contests in their countries. "Online voting is open until the end of the month. Anybody in the world can vote. The voting will be secret during the last week so that the watchful waiting for the results is crowned with a surprise," says Hana Rambousková. The results of the online voting will be announced on 1 March. The award ceremony will take place at IUCN's office in Brussels and the winner will receive a trophy by the renowned Czech artist Martin Patřičný. The contest is organized under the patronage of Mr Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment and with the financial support of the State Environmental Fund and the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic. More information: European Tree of the Year contest