Known as “The Patriarch Tree” (O Patriarca), this venerable old giant belongs to an endangered species native to the Atlantic rainforests of Brazil, commonly known in the country as the jequitibá-branco or jequitibá-rosa. At around 600 years old and 130 feet tall, it is both one of the oldest and tallest trees in Brazil.
Folkloric beliefs surround this tree species, and its bark was once boiled and used in folk medicine to treat throat infections and other ailments. The inner bark and pulp were used by indigenous peoples and traditional rural communities to make the wrapping of cigarettes and cigars, and even blankets.
Local legend says that O Patriarca, believed to be oldest of Brazil’s jequitibá-branco trees, has been standing in what is now Vassununga State Park for some 2,000 years, though studies have shown it’s actually around 600 years old—sill a remarkably long life.
Unfortunately, jequitibá-branco trees have experienced a massive decline across much of their former range, due to unsustainable and illegal levels of logging that continue to destroy the Atlantic rainforest. The species is particularly at risk because it typically grows only in the most fertile regions of the forest, where it’s been devastated by deforestation as vast areas are cleared for agriculture.
But the Patriarch is a survivor. It has somehow during its long life managed to escape the ax, and continues to grow defiantly today.
Know Before You Go
The Patriarch Tree is the highlight of Vassununga State Park (Parque Estadual Vassununga), open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.