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.
6. Llangernyw Yew, Common Yew, 4000 years old (Llangernyw, Wales)
Spreading its mighty branches across the churchyard of Saint Dygain’s church, in Llangernyw, Wales, a rural hamlet almost too tiny to notice. The parish church and majestic yew, however, have brought the town more than its fair share of attention for several hundred years. Many locals still believe restless spirits haunt the church, and colorful Halloween takes abound. According to local folklore, the yew tree has revelatory powers, and children coming of age would fast and pray beneath the yew until it disclosed their destinies.
7. Fitzrova cupressoides, 3600 years old (Chile)
Also known as the Patagonian Cypress, these ancient trees thrive in Argentine and Chilean rainforests. Charles Darwin’s notebook included detailed observations of these amazingly thick evergreens; Darwin himself found one over forty feet in diameter. Logged to the edge of extinction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they now are protected and making a slow come-back!
8. Senator, Bald Cypress, 3500 years old (Florida, United States)
Not only the oldest but also by far the largest Baldycypress in the Big Tree Park near Longwood, Florida, Senator has developed a colorful history in its 3500 years. For almost all of its early life, Senator stood nearly 170 feet tall, dwarfing everything around it, The Semi9nole and other indigenous people used the tree as a landmark, and tourists willingly waded through swamps to behold and photograph it. In 1925, a hurricane ripped away more than fifty feet from Senator’s top, yet it still dwarfs everything around it.
9. Jardine Juniper, Juniperus scopulorum. 3200 years old (Utah, United States)
Towering atop a Utah mountain, commanding a panoramic view of the valley below, The Jardine Juniper has become a mountain bikers’ favorite. Starting at 5350 feet, the fat tire folks willingly grind up The Jardine Juniper Trail, rising approximately six hundred feet per mile until it dramatically crests at nearly 7200 feet. The Jardine Juniper was just a sapling when Egyptians lugged rocks to build their pyramids; and, rare among the world’s oldest trees, the Jardine Juniper is still alive and growing.
10. Patriarca de Floresta, Cariniana legalis, 3000 years old (Brazil)
In fact, ten different species around the world could claim a ten-way tie for tenth place on the list, but careful ring-counts and historical accounts put “The Great Father of the Forest” a ring or two beyond its rivals. Preserved as a historic landmark and surrounded by The State Park of Vassununga, The Patriarch attracts visitors from around the world.