Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back in my day, everybody had cones!

A Pinus longaeva, showing its age
The intermountain bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva, is thought to be the longest-lived tree in the world. One tree was estimated to be over 5,000 years old. It's not a common species, found in a few disjunct patches scattered through Nevada, California, and Utah; nor is it impressive in size or appearance like the giant sequoias or aspen forests. There are older single organisms out there, and larger ones: Pando, a quaking aspen forest in Utah that's all a single individual below ground, has been estimated to be over 80,000 years old. Still, for sheer age of a single trunk, you can't beat the bristlecone pine.

The oldest known bristlecone is a tree called "Methuselah", growing in eastern California. At the time it first sprouted, around 2800 BC, the Neolithic period was barely over. Mesopotamians had just invented the city, the Egyptians were developing hieroglyphic writing, and the potter's wheel was the height of technology. Imagine -- there is a single living thing that would remember all of that, if it could!

Image source:
Williams, Margaret. Pinus longaeva D.K. Bailey - Great Basin bristlecone pine. USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database. Retrieved 17 January 2012 from <>. Used with permission.

Source: FNA

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