American Univesity of Beirut

Bechaaleh’s 1400-year-old Olive Trees documented in participation with Dr. Isam Bashour

The Bechaaleh Organization for Development and the Municipality of Bechaaleh requested the assistance of Isam Bashour, professor and chairperson, Department of Agriculture, FAFS, in documenting the antiquity of the town’s olive trees. Dr. Bashour’s work revealed the estimated ages of some of the trees to be 1,400 years old, possibly making them the oldest olive trees in Lebanon, and in the world at their altitude. Bechaaleh, a village in Batroun District, is situated at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, making it an unusual host:  olive trees usually grow at altitudes of 800 meters or lower.  The 12 olive trees have circumferences as large as 32 meters.

Dr. Bashour contacted Ramzi Touchan, professor, University of Arizona-Tucson, to lead the research, using C14 technology to estimate the age of these trees. Touchan has helped AUB in the past, including estimating the age of a cedar log cross section at the entrance of College Hall (which was found to have died around 5755 B.C. +/- 120 years). Bechaaleh Organization for Development, worked with Touchan, Bashour, Mrs. Nadine El Khoury, FAFS EAB member, Bechaaleh municipality, professors from the Lebanese University, and LIVCD/USAID, to scientifically document the age of these millennial olive trees, which continue to produce fruits.

The Bechaaleh Organization for Development has contributed the symbolic amount of $3,000 to AUB towards projects directed at preserving national heritage. The project also includes the eco-touristic Bechaaleh trails, for everyone to experience this wonder being as important as Baalbeck and Jbeil. Future plans for the project include creating a scientific association for the protection of the trees, achieving worldwide recognition for them and propagating their exceptional traits of high yield and excellent resilience through producing self-rooted olive trees using tissue culture.

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