Trees have been around for a long time, much longer than anything even resembling man. It’s estimated that the first trees started to grow around 385 million years ago, during the Devonian period, when life was abundant in the seas but just beginning on land. While no trees are left from that long ago, the oldest trees in America have seen centuries go by and are older than you may realize.
Here are some of the oldest trees in America, some still growing and some not so much.
Methuselah, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine
Located on the White Mountains of California, Methuselah stands tall in the forest. This Great Basin bristlecone pine is estimated to be 5,066 years old and is officially the oldest non-clonal tree in the U.S. and the oldest known individual tree in the world. To protect this ancient living pine, the U.S. Forest Service keeps its location a secret. Great Basin bristlecone pine trees grow up to 49 feet tall and often have a gnarled and stunted look. In the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California, the wood of these trees stay strong long after the trees die, and 7,000-year dead wood can still be seen standing next to live trees.
The Senator, the Pond Cypress
Located in Longwood, Florida, the Senator was the oldest pond cypress tree in the U.S. The tree was 3,500 years old and 118 feet tall and was found in Big Tree Park. Sadly, in January of 2012, the tree was burned to the ground in an act of vandalism. And while the Senator is no longer there, his counterpart, Lady Liberty, still endures. About 40 feet from where the Senator stood proud for over three centuries, the 2,000-year-old bald cypress stands 82 feet tall and is gaining in recognition, as it’s the last of the giants in Big Tree Park. Extra precautions are taken to protect Lady Liberty. While there are more ancient trees in the park, on average, most of them are believed to have around a 1,000-year lifespan.
Pando, the Colony of Quaking Aspens
Both Methuselah and the Senator are individual trees, single beings in a great forest. But Pando is different. Pando is a colony of quaking aspens located in Utah and is one of the oldest living organisms on Earth. Made up of around 47,000 trees, this colony of trees all share one giant root system, which is estimated to have been living for 80,000 years, making them about the same age as the first cave etchings done by early man. Pando covers 106 acres and is the heaviest known living thing. Sadly, it’s thought to be slowly dying. The individual trees in the Pando colony average about 130 years in age and the trees can grow up to 82 feet tall. They are recognized by their smooth, light bark with dark slashes.
The President, a Giant Sequoia
Located in the Sierra Nevada in California, the President is a 3,200 year old giant sequoia, also known as a giant redwood. The President stands 247 feet tall but doesn’t hold the record for the tallest sequoia, nor the widest at its 27 feet, but it is the third largest tree in the world. The President can be found in Giant Forest within the Sequoia National Park, a 1,880-acre forest that holds five of the ten biggest trees on Earth. The giant sequoias naturally occur only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and on average grow between 164 and 279 feet tall with a diameter of 20 to 26 feet.
The Jurupa Oak, a Colony of Palmer’s Oak
Another clonal colony of ancient trees, the Jurupa Oak is located in Riverside County, California. This colony of Palmer’s oak trees has a root system that is estimated to be 13,000 years old. It has survived by mass reproduction from the same root system after wildfires. To give an understanding of its age, 1,300 years ago was when man first started domesticating pigs and sheep. The Palmer’s oak is a small tree that typically grows to about 10 feet, although it can reach up to 20 feet tall.
Next time you’re strolling through the woods, take a moment and look around. Chances are you’re surrounded by living things that are older than you. And if you’re in an area where the ancients still live and grow, you may be able to touch something that was alive when the pyramids were being built.
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