The Ténéré Tree - The Loneliest Tree on Earth Killed by a Drunk Driver

Posted on Jun 9, 2021      25

No one could explain - how, in the northeastern African state of Niger in the Ténéré desert, the acacia tree, which has been called the loneliest tree on Earth, grew?

For a distance of 400 kilometers around, there were no other trees. The climate of the Ténéré is so harsh that there is almost no vegetation. Scientists became interested in this tree in the thirties of last century and found that it is about 300 years old.

All these years, the lonely tree was a veritable paradise for caravan travelers across the scorching desert. Here you could rest in the shade and get a drink of water. Two wells were drilled nearby - groundwater was about 30 meters deep, and somehow the acacia tree could reach the saving moisture by its roots and survive.

Some suggest that many thousands of years ago, when the climate in these places was more favorable, there was a lake with lush vegetation around it. Arrowheads and bones of animals such as giraffes, elephants and antelopes were found in the vicinity.

However, the Tuaregs - the people of the Berber group, who have long inhabited these places - do not agree with this statement. The inhabitants of the desert have their own explanation - a rebellious young man was turned into a tree by the god of thunder and lightning. The young man did not kneel before the god Adobu and did not bring him sacrifices, for which he was trounced.

The Tuareg name of the Teneres Desert means “isolated land”. The major caravan routes bypassed this inhospitable region. There was only one 700 km long road through the Tenere desert where twice a year (in winter and spring) caravans used it to transport salt mines in the town of Bilma.

The locals strictly observed that no harm was done to the unique tree. Even to pluck one branch was considered a terrible crime. But, it was not possible to save the landmark of the Teneres desert. As early as 1959, French ethnographer Henri Lot noted that the acacia was in a very sad state. Part of the crown had been broken, probably by a hurricane. The tree continued to fight for life and save travelers with its shade.

The tragedy happened in 1973. A drunk driver, driving a truck, crashed into the tree and permanently destroyed it. Interestingly, the dead tree was honored - on November 8 that year its trunk was transported to the capital of Niger State - the city of Niamey. Here, in the National Museum of Niger, a special pavilion was built for it. A special commission organized the transportation.

And at the place where for three centuries the loneliest tree in the world was located, a metal monument was erected. It serves not only as a reminder of the dead acacia tree but also as a landmark for the caravaners, showing the way in the Tenere desert. By the way, not everyone supports the version that the tree was brought down by a drunk driver. There is another assumption - the culprit was a strong wind.

The uniqueness of the lone tree in the Teneres desert is evidenced even because it was mapped on a scale of 1:4000000. What other tree has received such an honor?

Teg:   tree  desert