The oldest living tree in Disneyland
You will never guess what the oldest living thing in Disneyland is. If you’re thinking along the lines of a plant, or hedge, or tree, you’re on the right track. This has everything to do with Walt’s meticulous attention to detail and desire to get things precisely right for his guests. It’s a fascinating story to hear about the lengths to which Disney went in 1955 to get everything as perfect as possible. (2020 update – this is definitely not a Mugo Pine – it’s been misidentified for years. Read further below for the correct identification of this oldest-living tree in Disneyland.)
Arrow points to a Mugo Pine – Disneyland’s oldest living tree
The story begins with an attraction called, StoryBook Land Canal Boats in Fantastyland.
This is a “miniature” land built with miniature villages and palaces that will take you back to classic Disney animated tales like Cinderella, Pinnochio, and Snow White (along with many others). The tiny buildings in this land were constructed on a 1:12 scale (one-twelth), so a 12 foot high building has been shrunk down to 1 foot in StoryBook Land. Walt insisted that the tiny doors have working hinges, even if guests could not see them.
Monstro the whale – entrance to Storybook Land
The Dominguez Palm tree in Adventureland has been in Disneyland the *longest,* but the Mugo pine in Storybook Land is the *oldest* living tree. Of course, the petrified tree in Frontierland is the oldest tree, period, having lived somewhere between 55 and 70 million years ago.
So if you’re building a tiny village with tiny buildings, you’ve got to use tiny landscaping too, or the whole look and feel of the land will appear out of proportion, right?
One technique Disney used was to plant flowers in their original-nursery containers to curb their growth. But you also need trees to make the landscape look as realistic as possible.
Disneyland imagineers could have easily created some artificially small trees, but the word is that Walt did not like anything phony wherever possible, so the challenge was to find real-live trees that were small and would be extremely slow growing.
I can’t imagine how, but somehow, someway, the Disney landscaping staff located some very old *dwarf* pine trees (mugo pines) in Van Damme State Park, north of San Francisco, which is known for its pygmy forest. Since it was a state park, they were not allowed to remove anything from it, but they did locate some mugo pines in the surrounding area and were able to transport them down to Anaheim and plant them in time for the opening of StoryBook Land on June 16, 1956 (about one year after Disneyland opened).
This mugo pine is estimated to be in excess of 150 years old. It’s located in the Gepetto’s Village area of StoryBook Land.
Mugo pines are NOT bonsai trees – they’re slow growing dwarf pines.
2020 UPDATE – This tree has been called a Mugo Pine by just about everybody, including the official Disney Fan Club, D23. This post might be the only place you will find the *correct* identification of this remarkable tree. In fact, this tree is a Stone Pine (pinus pinea). How do I know? The information comes directly from Disneyland’s Horticultural Dept, who had an expert identify the tree.
Considering that this tree was probably around when Abraham Lincoln was President, I’d say it looks absolutely spectacular! And that’s a real testament to the Disney Horticultural Department.