The Lijnbaan Plane Tree Needs Your Vote!
I live in the center of a big city and yet only fifty meters from the Tree of the Year. Or, well, one of the nominees for the Dutch Tree of the Year election 2019 .
This tree, the famous Lijnbaan Plane Tree, the tree that has seen it all, has been nominated as a candidate for the province of South Holland. The 168-year-old giant is so large that I had to paste six photos together to get this full picture of it.
It is a tree that has a story to tell. A tree that has seen the world around it change beyond recognition during its lifetime.
In 1851 it was planted in the garden of the Coolsingel Hospital, which at that time was on the outskirts of the city.
During the bombing on May 14, 1940, most the hospital was destroyed, but the tree survived the bombs and the subsequent blaze.
In the 1960s, the last remains of the hospital were demolished and the world’s first car-free shopping street, the Lijnbaan, was created. A special little plaza was made around the plane tree; the gate of the hospital also got a place here.
During a renovation at the end of the nineties, the plaza was slightly reduced in size, making the tree look even larger. And in recent years, the plane tree witnessed the large-scale (and very noisy) construction activities for the adjacent Forum.
Around the plane tree there is a flower bed with a natural stone border on which countless shoppers and other passers-by sit down during shopping days (and these days there are 364 of them in a year). A nice tranquil haven in the hectic city center.
Plane trees can grow very old, reportedly up to 4000 years. In that respect, the Lijnbaan Plane Tree is just a youngster who still has a whole life ahead. It certainly looks very healthy; a good sign seems to me that in the autumn it holds on to its leaves for a long time. Usually the last leaves don’t fall down untill the last days of December.
To close to call
To summarize: a candidate that Rotterdam can be proud of. Will the city be able, after bringing in the Eurovision Song Contest, to also win this totally incomparable election?
At the time of writing, the Lijnbaan Plane Tree and the candidate for the province of Brabant have roughly the same number of votes, leaving the the other nominees far behind them. Come on, fellow townspeople and sympathizers, give the plane tree some help! Voting is possible until October 16 on the Tree of the Year website.
Update October 17, 2019: a silver medal
I turned out not to be the only supporter of the Lijnbaan plane tree. In the weeks that followed, the tree was promoted with flyers and hikes, and all Rotterdam media paid attention to the election. RTV Rijnmond, Algemeen Dagblad, Havenloods, Open Rotterdam, Rotta Historica: their support was very much appreciated.
For a long time, the Lijnbaan plane tree and the Witch Tree in Bladel, province of Brabant, were in a very tight race. But when the Brabant media started framing the election as a match between PSV and Feyenoord, there was no stopping them. Rotterdammers are probably just chauvinistic as people from Brabant, but there are simply more of the latter group.
On October 16 the ballot boxes closed and on October 17, newspaper Trouw announced the result: Bladel had 9840 votes, Rotterdam 9212. Number 3, the endangered black poplar in Opijnen, Gelderland, was far behind with 1319 votes.
Anyway, a silver medal is also a satisfying result. After all, the most important aim of such an election is emphasizing the importance of these types of monumental trees once again and that has been quite successful.
And another small consolation: the Feyenoord-Ajax match was at least won with crushing figures because the Amsterdam elm only received 93 votes….
Update September 7, 2021: the Breytenbach Tree
Two years after the narrowly lost election, another Rotterdam plane tree has a chance to win the honorary title of Tree of the Year. This time it’s the Breytenbach plane tree, named after the South African poet who proclaimed it a “monument for free thoughts” in 1986. This tree is only a few hundred meters from its Lijnbaan counterpart, on its own peninsula in the Westersingel.
Rotterdammers, you know what to do! You can vote on the Tree of the Year website until 12 noon on 18 October.