The Old Tree of Hippocrates and Its Story
Hippocrates of Kos lived between 460 and 370 BC long before the oriental plane tree standing today in Platía Platanou in Kos Town. The Tree of Hippocrates standing today propped by metal scaffolding is less than 600 years old, but it probably marks the place of another oriental plane where the “Father of Medicine” used to spend his time teaching his students.
The original oriental plane tree (Platanus orientalis) may be no more, but according to DNA researchers from the Smithsonian’s Laboratories of Analytical Biology in the USA, the tree that stands today is hundreds of years old – probably planted in 1776.
The locals believe it to be a descendant of the original tree. However, science cannot prove or disprove their beliefs. Cuttings from the tree DNA barcoded by scientists were gifted to major institutions, like libraries, universities of medicine, and medical institutions worldwide. So, the legend of the Tree of Hippocrates lives on.
And, according to this legend, Hippocrates himself planted the first platane, watched it grow, then enjoyed its generous shade while teaching for many years.
The Tree of Hippocrates is a Platanus orientalis – oriental plane – and if the original survived, it would have rivaled the oriental plane of Krási in Crete, planted in the year 50 AD.
Propped by scaffolding, damaged by insects and fungi, the tree is still an impressive sight. It has a 12-meter diameter trunk, a hollow shaft, and a large crown. Standing in Platía Platanou, the Tree of Hippocrates is one of the most cherished symbols of Kos Town. And, not far from this natural monument, there are several other attractions you should not miss:
- The Castle of Nerantzia (Castle of the Knights of St. John, colloquially Kos Castle) is a magnificent 14th-century fortress dominating the harbor. Step in to visit the ruins, but more importantly, to admire unforgettable sea panoramic views.
- The Mosque of Gazi Hasan Paşa (Loggia) is an Ottoman architectural gem from 1786 worth seeing. The fountain just adjacent to the Tree of Hippocrates was once used by Muslims to wash their feet before entering the mosque.
Several cafes, bars, and tavernas are close to Platía Platanou too, and you will also find souvenir stands and shops.