The World’s Oldest Trees
When most people think about the oldest trees in the world, they think of giant sequoias and old growth forests. You may be surprised to learn that the world’s oldest trees aren’t the tallest, or the widest, or even the beneficiaries of a particularly hospitable and well protected environment. The longest-living specimens belong to a species called the Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva). These trees are only found in a few places in California, Nevada, and Utah, where they are scattered in small stands at elevations of 9,800 to 11,000 feet.
Between the elevation, high winds, short growing season, and frequent droughts, few other species of trees can survive in these locations. Even bristlecone pines show the mark of their harsh environment. They grow in twisted, stunted shapes thanks to wind erosion, and as the trees age, many exhibit large sections of dead and exposed wood with only a handful of living branches.
Somehow, though, these trees thrive. Researchers have found one specimen that is estimated to be 5,067 years old. Another more famous tree (and the previous holder of the oldest-known living tree title) is 4,849 years old. It has been nicknamed “Methuselah.”
I had the opportunity this summer to visit these ancient trees during a trip to Inyo National Forest in the White Mountains of California. Together, my family and I hiked almost 5 miles among the grove where Methuselah grows, through a beautiful and almost moon-like landscape.
It’s a humbling experience to stand with my children before trees that have been living and growing in these mountains since before the pyramids in Egypt were built, and which have been able to provide scientists with 4 millennia of environmental data.
It’s an even greater reminder of what we as stewards of this country’s trees need to protect for future generations. Trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, particulates, and pollutants while slowing water evaporation and helping to cool our neighborhoods. They produce oxygen, reduce stress, promote healing, and beautify our communities.
Whether a tree is 40 years old or 4,000, it has an important part to play in humanity’s future, and SavATree is proud to provide the care and guidance that will protect it for years to come.