The desert is known to be a wide expanse of sand, and not much else of any value, but that doesn’t mean that there is no vegetation there. Usually you will find shrubs and patches of weeds here and there as well as the occasional cactus. There aren’t usually many trees, but there usually are a few. L’Arbre du Ténéré, known in English as the Tree of Ténéré, was a solitary Acacia tree that was once considered the most isolated tree on Earth. In fact, it was the only tree for over 250 miles.

The tree was located in the Sahara Desert. At one time the tree had been part of a lush and populated forest, but as time went on, the trees began to die out, until L’Arbre du Ténéré stood alone in a barren desert as an isolated landmark for caravan routes through the Ténéré region of the Sahara in northeast Niger for hundreds of years. Anyone who traveled the desert knew about the tree. That tree and the Arbre Perdu or ‘Lost Tree’ to the north are so well known, that they are the only trees to be shown on a map at a scale of 1:4,000,000.

Against all odds, the tree survived hundreds of years of desertification. It was one tough tree. Then one day in 1973, a drunk truck driver managed to hit the only obstacle in 250 miles…the L’Arbre du Ténéré tree. How could someone…even a drunk driver manage to hit a tree, with miles of open desert all around it? It boggles the mind.

The Tenere region was not always a desert. As sun seasons change things all over the Earth, it went from sea floor to rainforest to desert over the centuries. Still, through it all one little tree stood strong. Finally, the Ténéré region became inhospitable with little vegetation and an average annual rainfall of only 2.5 centimeters. After a time, water was even scarce underground. By the early 20th century, all that remained was a small group of the thorned, yellow-flowered Acacias of the Ténéré. Finally, all but one died, leaving it as the only surviving tree in a 250 mile radius…which made its destruction even more tragic. After the tree was struck down, the dead tree was moved to the Niger National Museum. That is all that remains of the once great forest of Acacia trees in that region.

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