Hippocrates Plane Tree in Kos

The plane tree of Hippocrates in Kos, Dodecanese: In the center of Kos island in front of the Castle of Knights stands a huge old plane tree, known as the Hippocrates plane tree. It is claimed that Hippocrates used to sit under this plane tree and teach his students. As the tree is 500 years old, it is obviously not the one that Hippocrates planted, since he lived around the 5th century BC.

This plane tree has a perimeter of twelve meters, which gave it the reputation of being the largest in Europe. The island's authorities have taken some measures in order to preserve it. A short surrounding wall with a metal railing prevents it from extending excessively and keeps people in the proper distance. The wall has Turkish ornaments on one side of this wall, while on the other there is a historic white engraved tap in the Arabic language, put by a Turkish governor. Water can be taken from it, even in our days.

The tree has made history around the world since some of its cuttings or seeds went to several destinations as gifts. For example, to the grounds surrounding the National Library of Medicine in the United States, in which its seeds have been planted in 1961. The Department of Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow, the Michigan Medical School, and the Sydney's School of Rural Health in Australia are just a few examples of the many institutions that hold derivations of the Hippocrates plane tree. In the case of the Medical Association of Kos, it even presented to its president a gavel made from the tree's wood, in 1954.

During summer, there are also some events related to Hippocrates plane tree that tourists along with the locals, usually enjoy. On September the 5th, there is a tradition for housewives making two wreaths, one with old leaves, and the other with new ones. The old one must be taken into the sea, while the new one has to be put on the shore. This one symbolizes the beginning of the year and must be held until forty waves lap it.

Once it is done, housewives come back to the tree with the wreath, holding some pebbles and seawater in pannikins while they grab the tree, which supposedly assures them health and long life. Once at home again, the ritual continues, as the wreath must be put on some religious icons, and sprinkle them with the rest of the sea water.

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