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The professor. Schicchi at the Agricultural Library: "Monumental trees are the best connoisseurs of our landscapes".

The second seminar of the online cycle "Open Green: green beyond the screen" was held on Wednesday 3 June, promoted by the Agricultural Library of the Università degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria. The initiative joins the national event "May of books". The topic dealt with "Monumental trees: knowledge, conservation, enhancement" and had as speaker the Prof. Rosario Schicchi (Professor of Systematic Botany at the Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences of the University of Palermo, as well as director of the Garden botanist of Palermo). The Director of the Department of Agriculture, prof. Giuseppe Zimbalatti, greeting the speaker and the participants, highlighted the intimate link of the initiative with the training activities proposed in the Forest and Environmental Science courses, as well as with professional activity.
By introducing the theme of the seminar, Prof. Salvatore Di Fazio (delegate to the Library Services) highlighted its relevance, recalling how last April the MIPAAFT gave wide emphasis to the results of a first national census of monumental trees. He then went on to present Prof. Schicchi, a scholar of considerable competence on the subject, whose research, internationally appreciated, focused in particular on the heritage of the large trees of Sicily, with detailed studies concerning the Sicani Mountains and the Regional Parks of the Nebrodi and Madonie.
Schicchi first of all clarified what is meant by a monumental tree: “It is a concept that has been clarified over time and which in its completed formulation can be traced back to Alexander von Humboldt, who in the reports of his scientific expedition carried out in the America of the South between 1799 and 1804 uses the term 'tree monuments', implying the need for protection ". From this point of view, Sicily can be said to have been at the forefront. In 1745, Prince Corsini, then Viceroy of Sicily, with an edict ordered the institutional protection of some "chestnut trees whose marvelous size causes everyone amazement", falling on Etna in the Carpineto woods (Mascali, CT). Particular reference is made to the Chestnut of a hundred horses which, with its estimated age of three thousand years, is the oldest tree in Europe. "The status of a monumental tree", specified prof. Schicchi, “today it is not attributed only according to dimensional criteria. Other criteria must be taken into consideration, as they have been defined by Law 10 of 2013: age, shape and bearing, botanical rarity, plant architecture, ecological value, landscape value; the historical-cultural and religious values ​​". Even the same dimensional criterion, according to Schicchi, should also be related, in order to understand its relative importance, both to the species and to the territory where the tree is located.
The official data of the national registry of monumental trees today give us an underestimated consistency: “In Italy, taking into account the latest updates, around 3400 monumental trees are registered, 295 for Sicily, 460 for Calabria. I made an estimate of my heritage, on an objective basis, taking into account the various local censuses and different scientific studies published: in Italy we should have at least 13500 monumental trees, while in Sicily around 1900 ".
Prof. Schicchi therefore offered a review of the heritage of the large trees of Sicily, through suggestive images of the most significant specimens. Among the plants of agricultural interest, the olive tree deserved special attention. In Sicily some olive trees have considerable dimensions, such as that of Predica in the territory of Caronia, which has a maximum circumference of almost 13 meters. On the Nebrodi, in the countryside of Pettineo (ME), we find an olive tree that is almost 900 years old and bears the owner's monogram engraved in the bark: “It is a legacy of the Marquisate of the Ventimiglia (16th-17th centuries) - says Schicchi - where the peasants could have owned individual trees, as a property distinct from the land ".
Ancient legends are linked to the monumental trees, as in the case of the cypress that rises near the Convent of S. Maria di Gesù in Palermo. It is believed that it developed from a stick that San Benedetto il Moro had stuck in the ground: “Beyond popular belief, with dendrochronological analysis, the tree was attributed to an age of about 450 years, compatible with the legend, being the death of Benedict in 1589 ".
Prof. Schicchi then went on to present the characteristics of the most relevant forest trees in Sicily, starting from the cerro-cork of Serra Travetto, the monumental cork of Bosco Cava (Geraci Siculo), the cork trees of Bosco Sugheri, all in the territory of the Madonie. On the island there is the largest holm oak in Italy, within the Madonie Park, in Piano Zucchi (Isnello, PA). “Quercus ilex is the most extraordinary forest plant in the Mediterranean - said Schicchi - it adapts very easily and you find it everywhere, rooted in all types of soils and in a very wide altitude range. In some areas of Sicily it often has large dimensions, thanks also to civic uses that forbade its cutting ".
Some trees are distinguished by the habit and the architecture of the foliage, such as the Carrinu ilice, located in Zafferana Etnea (CT) in the Etna Park, the downy oak of the Vallone of the Castello della Pietra, in the territory of Trapani, or the monumental badger of the Bosco della Tassita (Caronia, Nebrodi Park). In Sicily, imposing dimensions are also reached by maples: the largest specimen in Italy is the Acerone delle Madonie, with a maximum circumference of over 16 meters. Here there is also a forest that has no equal in Europe: that of the Piano Pomo holly, of which Schicchi recounts: "We observe the only form of natural grafting, that by approximation. Beaten by the wind, the drums rub against each other until the promissory fabric is exposed. Then cicatrization calluses are formed that weld the plants together at different points. More than three hundred hollies exchange sap and act like a single large tree. " Monumentality must also be seen in terms of botanical rarity, as it is for the Abies Nebrodensis, endemic species present in Sicily for 9000 years, at serious risk of extinction. There are only 30 individuals, all in the Vallone Madonna degli Angeli in the territory of Polizzi Generosa (PA).
Botanical gardens are other privileged places where you can observe monumental trees. Just in the Botanical Garden of Palermo, directed by Prof. Schicchi, is the largest tree in Europe: a ficus macrophylla f. columnaris whose circumference measures over 48 m, with a crown covering an area of ​​about 3000 square meters.
Schicchi stresses that adequate actions are not always taken to safeguard our plant patriarchs. "In 2019 MIPAAFT published guidelines for the care and protection of monumental trees. It is a text for specialists - said Schicchi - but we must take a step forward, also from a regulatory point of view. We have a specific law that has a prescriptive-sanctioning system. Instead, we must learn to encourage good practices and to turn to the real protagonists of care and maintenance, which are the common people who own the plants, visit them, undertake the various activities that somehow concern them ".
The report was followed by a lively debate, with the talks by professors Modica, Spampinato and Musarella. At the end of the meeting, Prof. Di Fazio and Prof. Schicchi expressed their common intention to promote, for the students of the Department of Agriculture, a guided visit in the Sicilian forest areas, so as to be able to admire the arboreal monuments presented in the seminary.
Note: In the file folder of the "Open Green - green beyond the screen" TEAM, you can consult useful in-depth texts on the topics covered by Prof. Schicchi

Attached: pdf file with the extended version of Prof. Schicchi's seminar.

Link for the video with the recording of the seminar of Prof. Schicchi

{Agricultural photogallery / schicchibiblio inline}

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