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Methusela, the oldest living individual tree.
Photo courtesy of Clinton Steeds. Creative Commons 2.0
One of my favorite things is going to the lumber yard and digging through the stacks. I love wood and get a great thrill from discovering jaw-droppingly beautiful lumber hidden among piles of more mundane boards. But I also recognize the inherent beauty of a living tree. In fact, I appreciate the living tree much more than the fallen timber, no matter how beautiful the curl or grain. So I was pleased the other morning while reading Wired magazine’s website over breakfast. In particular, they had posted a photo gallery of the 12 oldest trees on earth. There is something about a tree that’s been alive for thousands of years that puts my life and my significance as a human being into the proper perspective. I know that not everyone (if anyone at all) is interested in my philosophical musings about what it means to be human in a world that sees us (and treats us) as just another animal, so I’ll spare you any details. But I will tell you that seeing those majestic elders makes me appreciate the lumber I do work all the more. Trees are an amazing resource. I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.
At any rate, take a look at the gallery. And if you curiosity is piqued, take a look at this website about Methusela, which thought to be the oldest living individual on earth. I have always been taken by the story of Prometheus, another bristlecone pine, even older than Methusela, that was cut down back in 1964. The story breaks my heart every time I read it (I first read about Prometheus many years ago in a book about the largest trees in the US that my parents have).
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That's right. The Wired piece actually features an Aspen grove that is about 80,000 years old.
Depending on how you look at it, aspens may be the longest-lived trees. While a single aspen bole lives only a couple of hundred years, all of the boles in a grove comprise a single organism, arising from a single germination event, and remaining connected underground through their roots.
Some quaking aspen groves in the Western US are estimated to be tens of thousands of years old.
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