World’s Top Ten Oldest Trees

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Although botany purists may contest researchers’ failure to distinguish among clonal, deciduous, and evergreen trees as they assembled this list, careful examination of the data revealed the distinction would have altered the list very little. Therefore, researchers built the list on one simple principle—“old is old.” After some discussion, they also agreed trees on the list need not still be living—as in “active plant metabolism”—but they must still be standing; no stumps.


1. Pando, Quaking Aspen, 80,000 to one million years old (Utah, United States)


In addition to winning “oldest tree” honors by about seventy millennia, Pando contends for the title “oldest living organism on earth.” Massive, monumental, and breathtaking, Pando looks like a tiny forest; but it actually is one single living organism sustained by a huge labyrinthine roots system, itself a contender for “heaviest known organism.” Pando gets its name from Latin, and translates “I spread”; the locals refer to it as “The Trembling Giant,” because even light breezes rattle its delicate leaves.


2. Olda Tjikko, Norway Spruce, 9550 years old (Dalama, Sweden)


Only recently discovered, “the ultimate Christmas Tree” stands among a stand of tall Norway Spruce in Saint Nicholas’s old Swedish neighborhood. In that same stand, researchers have found more than twenty Norway Spruce trees more than 8000 years old. Using sophisticated dating techniques, scientists at the University of Miami, Florida, confirmed Olda Tjikko is at least 9550 years old.


3. Huon Pine, 3000 to 10,000 years old (Mount Read, Tasmania)


From a distance, this ancient pine looks like hundreds of individual trees. In fact, one root system connects almost all the single trees, making it one organism. Genetic testing has confirmed all the trees are identical, and advanced dating methods show the behemoth Huon Pine is at least 10,000 years old.


4. Methuselah, Great Basic Bristlecone Pine, 4800 years old (California, United States)


Named after the Biblical character revered among his people for living nearly 1000 years, lives in “The Forest of the Ancients,” a grove of Bristlecone Pines in California’s White Mountains. In 1964, loggers felled “Prometheus,” an even older Bristlecone Pine. Since then, Inyo National Forest officials have refused to disclose the exact location of The Forest of the Ancients, and exceptionally strict environmental protection laws safeguard the trees.


5. Sarv-e-Abarqu, Cypress, 4000 years old (Abarqu, Yazd, Iran)


Widely believed to be the single oldest living thing in Asia, Sarv-e-Abarqu has become a major tourist attraction, and the Iranian government has declared it a national monument. Since ancient times, mythology and symbolism have grown up around Cypress trees, and several sacred texts associate Cypress with sacrifice, death, and rebirth. Cypress groves frequently adorn temples, cathedrals, and mosques; and, revered for its durability, cypress wood often frames or decorates places of worship.


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