TREE artwork

TREE was installed in 2009 to mark 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin and 150 years since he published his revolutionary book, On the Origin of Species. It is the Natural History Museum’s first permanent art installation.

Tree of life diagram from Darwin's Transmutation Notebook B

Branching Tree of Life diagram from Darwin's Transmutation Notebook B, 1937. © Cambridge University Library

Celebrating Darwin

TREE was inspired by a diagram made by Darwin in his Transmutations Notebook B of 1837, following his voyage on the Beagle. It is a simple expression of his idea of a branching tree of life.

The installation was crafted from a 200-year-old oak tree chosen from the managed forests of Longleat Estate in Wiltshire. The tree was growing when Darwin was alive and developing his theory. 

The 17m-long tree slice reflects on Darwin's life, his tree of life and the legacy of his theory of evolution.

A living legacy

Artist Tania Kovats beside one of the 200 saplings planted at Longleat Estate in Wiltshire

Artist Tania Kovats beside one of the 200 saplings planted on Longleat Estate to replace the oak felled to produce TREE.

The artist Tania Kovats worked with foresters on the estate to plant 200 saplings in place of the oak. In time they will become a growing monument to the endurance of Darwin's radical idea. 

The massive hole left after excavating the dying tree's roots was turned into a pond, increasing biodiversity in the forest.

A shared legacy

The Museum collected samples of the tree and invertebrates (animals without backbones, such as insects) that it hosted. These have joined our scientific collections. 

Additionally, a series of sections were cut from a branch of the tree, to form a set of artworks called BRANCH. These were given to museums in each country visited by Darwin's Beagle as a gift to celebrate Darwin's life and work.

Further information

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