The World’s Loneliest Tree

Nestled in a windswept cove, a lone tree on Campbell Island in New Zealand shouldn’t technically be there. The Sitka spruce, a native of the northern hemisphere, is a long way from its cousins. In fact, the closest tree of any kind is more than 170 miles northeast of Auckland. The lonely tree was planted around the turn of the 20th century by New Zealand’s then-governor, Lord Ranfurly. More than 100 years later, the tree is considered the most isolated tree in the world. The tree not only endures isolation, but the wild weather of the subantarctic, with rain for 325 days and gale-force winds for 100 days of the year. Surprisingly, the spruce seems to thrive under these conditions, growing at a rate of 5 to 10 times faster than normal. Still, the 30-foot-tall tree lacks the cone-shaped crown characteristic of the species, instead growing into a poofy cauliflower shape. Campbell Island was exploited by humans for whaling, sealing, and farming since its discovery in 1810. Over the years, destructive rats and feral cattle have been removed, but the Sitka spruce remains the lone sentinel.