The oldest living trees…. IN THE WORLD

Back in 1953, Dr Schulman was trying to uncover the climatic history of the White Mountains in the Inyo national forest.


It was in this valley, that the Dr. took a core sample from a living tree and brought it back to his tent to count the rings. He first made himself dinner and then started counting the trees annual growth rings. Legend has it, he stayed up all night long, counting, and counting and counting. He was beyond excited that he had just found the first tree in the world that was over 4000 years old and was still living!


Of course, excited with his findings the Dr. continued to explore the area. In 1957 he found the oldest living tree in the world. The tree is named Methuselah and is located about 2 miles from where this picture was taken. The exact tree is not marked to protect it from vandalism. Just how old is the oldest living tree in the world? 4851 years old. Think of what has changed in the world during this tree’s life.


If you go and visit the Bristlecone forest, you can go for a short walk amongst the oldest living trees in the world.


Due to the high elevation of this forest (10,000 feet), the dry conditions, and high alkalinity soil, not much grows up here. The bristlecone pine has adapted for this environment so there is little competition from other trees and plants.


Due to the harsh growing conditions, the trees don’t grow very much. Each annual growth ring in the tree’s trunk are very close together. 1 inch of trunk will contain roughly 100 years of growth rings.


Some of these standing dead trees would have died up to 3200 years ago. Due to the dry conditions and high elevation, the dead trees decay very slowly.


The tree rings grow at different rates depending on the weather during the year. They can use this to line up the years of growth rings from dead trees and live trees to create a story line of growth rings. In this forest, they have managed to date back over 11,000 years of continuous growth rings.


In the 1960’s scientists realized that radiocarbon dating was a flawed process for determining the age of items. By using the tree rings from the Bristlecone forest as a reference, they were able to refine and adjust radiocarbon dating. This new process meant adjusting European history as they had gotten a number of dates incorrect using the previous carbon dating process.


Apparently, the pinecones for these trees come in different colors but purple is the most common.


The Dr.’s work in the area found trees dating back 11,000 years.


By analyzing the growth rings, the Dr was able to get clues about the area’s historical climate, air quality and the frequency of fires and droughts.


A very old tree growing around a very old tree.


The soil in this area erodes from wind, rain, ice and even gravity exposing the trees roots. The exposed roots are susceptible to disease and is the leading cause of these ancient trees dying.


Don’t wait another 5000 years, go visit the Bristlecone forest and see the oldest living trees…. IN THE WORLD!



1 Comment

Ted Lawrence · May 3, 2020 at 5:12 pm

Very interesting! Also makes me feel younger!

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