The 213-year old “Gran Gomero”

Here are two more views of the tree featured in ID Challenge #21. This is El “Gran Gomero,” a planted rubber tree (Ficus elastica) located in the upscale Recoleta district of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Whenever locals give a name to an individual tree, you know it has to be something special, and this tree certainly does not disappoint. Huge, buttress roots and massive branches supporting a majestic, 50-meter wide crown make it an impressive sight indeed. Its branches are so large that wooden supports have been placed beneath them to help support their great weight and prevent them from breaking.

El "Gran Gomero" rubber tree (Ficus elasticus) | Buenos Aires, Argentina

El “Gran Gomero” rubber tree (Ficus elasticus) | Buenos Aires, Argentina

There seems to be some question about how old this tree actually is. A Wikipedia entry on the Recoleta district mentions that the tree was planted in 1791 by Martín José Altolaguirre, a landowner in the area at the time, making it a cool 222 years old! Wikimapia claims that the tree was planted in 1826 by Martín de Altolaguirre in the adjacent Recoleta Cemetary (itself worth a blog post) and transplanted to its current location eight years later. Still other sources, such as Buenos Aires Delivery and numerous individual blog posts state that the tree was planted in 1870 by the monks of the Recoleta. Finally, there is a sign at the base of the tree that says the tree was planted in 1800, again by the monks of the Recoleta, and that the fence was donated to the city by the nearby cafe La Biela. Unfortnately, I did not photograph the sign, but I did find a photo of it on Flickr. Perhaps the 9-year difference in planting date between the sign and Wikipedia has to do with the transplanting from its original location in the cemetary as mentioned by Wikimapia. Regardless of its true age, El Gran Gomero must certainly be among the oldest of any residing in a city as large as Buenos Aires.

 

Huge buttress roots support a massive, 50-meter wide crown.

Huge buttress roots support a massive, 50-meter wide crown.

Just when I was beginning to think nobody read this blog anymore, a record 30 people participated in this ID Challenge. Even more impressive is that more than a few got it right! Timing is everything, however, and 3-time BitB Challenge Champion Ben Coulter takes the win due to his speedy response and early-bird bonuses that netted him a total of 23 points. Also making the podium were Chelydra and Brady Richards with 18 each. The overall leader is now Ben Coulter with 33 points. Bill Rockenbeck and Chelydra both follow with 21 points, but in the event of a tie-breaker Bill would get the nod by virtue of having participated in more challenges. Look for another installment of BitB Challenge Session #7 in the near future.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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8 Responses to The 213-year old “Gran Gomero”

  1. Chelydra says:

    The first photo I found of a similar Ficus elastica in Buenos Aires mistakenly called it an ombú. Too bad, because the true ombú, Phytolacca dioica, is a really cool species. Supposedly the only tree native to the Pampas, it’s in the same genus as pokeweed, so it’s essentially a giant herbaceous plant with “wood” soft enough to cut with a knife.

  2. James C. Trager says:

    Picture of ombú from Buenos Aires – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Phytolacca_dioica_(omb%C3%BA)_Plaza_Barrancas,_Belgrano,_Buenos_Aires.jpg.

    The confusion with a large Ficus by some is perhaps understandable.

  3. My mom and I have been at Buenos Ayres in May last year. We’re Brazilians and she has an elderly dementia related to attention deficit, it’s a close cousin from Elzeimer. She doesn’t remember much of our trip, but the only true and clear memory she has (she still draws it!), is from this incredible tree! I was researching some scientific info about it to put in our photo album (I’m very late! :-(), and found your blog. It’s an amazing tree for sure “El Gran Gramero”. Thank you!

  4. Pingback: Buenos Aires – Recoleta – Stuff to See and Do | The Gannet

  5. Pingback: Tracking Down Borges | Helen Healy

  6. Eli says:

    The branches are now supported metal or concrete supports…including one as a statue of a man supporting the tree. I love visiting these impressive trees in Bs. As.!

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