It’s humbling to look up at a tree and realize that it has been alive much longer than you have, and will likely outlive you by centuries. In the case of the world’s oldest trees, we’re talking thousands of years. Measured in various ways including tree-ring count core samples, pollen DNA testing and radiocarbon dating, the ages of these trees are absolutely astonishing. Check out a cool infographic showing the world’s oldest trees from top to bottom, and then read about four of the most notable trees on the list – Pando, Old Tjikko, Methuselah and The Senator.
Pando The Trembling Giant: 800,000 to 1,000,000 Years Old
Pando, known as The Trembling Giant, is technically a clonal colony – a group of genetically identical individual trees that all originate asexually from a single ancestor. In this case, that’s a single male Quaking Aspen tree. The entire aspen grove at the Fishlake National Forest, near Fish Lake in South-central Utah, has one massive underground root system. This single living organism has been alive for nearly a million mind-boggling years.
Old Tjikko: Oldest Living Tree at 9,550 Years
Located on a mountain in Sweden, Old Tjikko is the world’s oldest living individual clonal tree. The Norway Spruce has survived for 9,550 years thanks to the vegetative cloning process; the growth of the tree that we see today is technically young, but it sprung from a much older root system. In previous centuries, Old Tjikko was just a stump. It has grown into the recognizable tree-shape in recent decades due to global warming.
Methuselah: Oldest Living Non-Clonal Organism at 4,844-4,845 Years
Perhaps the best-known of the oldest living trees, Methuselah is named for the Biblical figure with the longest mentioned lifespan of 969 years. The tree itself is much older than that, at nearly 5,000 years. A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, Methuselah grows in the White Mountains in eastern California. This one didn’t grow from older roots; the tree itself is the oldest non-clonal organism in the world.
The Senator: 3,400 – 3,600 Years Old; Burned Down
Tree appreciators all over the world shed a tear in January 2012 when the news came of The Senator‘s death. The oldest pond cypress tree in the world at 3,400 to 3,600 years, The Senator was 125 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet. It burned from the inside out when accidentally lit on fire by a drug user sitting at the base, but the charred stump still stands 25 feet tall, and some people say they’ve spotted saplings at the base, giving hope that it’s not entirely gone.