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The World's Oldest Singular Tree - A Norway Spruce

Updated on January 10, 2012
Norway Spruce Cone - I couldn't find a usable photo for the actual tree, though I wish I could go and take a photo myself.  This likely would be very similar though, to the Norway spruce that is so old. (With some variation of course.)
Norway Spruce Cone - I couldn't find a usable photo for the actual tree, though I wish I could go and take a photo myself. This likely would be very similar though, to the Norway spruce that is so old. (With some variation of course.) | Source

The World's Oldest Individual Tree - 9,550 Years Old!

Old Tjikko

One way to find the world's oldest tree is to look at how long its root system has been growing. Going with this gauge, scientists have found the world's oldest tree. Guess where it is growing still? It is growing in Sweden, is a conifer, and it is about 9,550 years old. They suspect that this particular tree began to grow and take root around the end of the last Ice Age! It certainly must have had the very perfect growing conditions to be doing so well.

It looks like a Christmas tree, and is about 13 feet tall or so (or 4 meters). This of course is the part that can be seen. You know that a tree with this kind of longevity has a lot going on in the areas we can't see. This conifer isn't ancient by some standards, but that is pretty impressive as far as living things go! Before they found this tree, many thought that the pines in North America were the oldest. Some thought they ranged from 4,000 to 5,000 years old.

There was a team that was led by Leif Kullman. He is a professor at Umea University. No surprise that he teaches in the ecology and environmental science department in Sweden. I hope I am not alone in getting a little chuckle out of his name, considering the topic...Leif? It will help in making it all easier to remember.

World's Oldest Plant - A Norway Spruce

Old Tjikko was first discovered in 2004. It is quite alone in its location. Can't you just imagine the team that first found it, and the beginning of the realization that this is not your average conifer tree?

The team found this amazing tree in Delarna Province. The altitude at this location is 2,985 feet, or 910 meters. It makes me wonder if there any more like it out there somewhere, and if it might be similar to this surviving conifer.

Leif Kullman states that this kind of survival is due to this trees ability to do a type of cloning of itself. The trunks/stems of these kinds of trees generally die after about 600 years or so. Its the root system that is key here. A new stem immediately grows from the same root stock. That would explain the conifers long life expectancy. In this sense I had a little bit of a let down, as I was thinking the tree itself was that old, but it made sense once I understood it all. Root systems are amazing things, and have the protection of being under the surface where it is somewhat protected from all the bigger action going on around it.

This particular Norway Spruce, Old Tjikko, is said to have grown between tall trees and smaller bushes over time. The picture you can find online, shows it to be all alone now, probably due to its strong root system, when all other things couldn't survive. It somehow kept pace over time, with dramatic climate changes. I find that to be amazing!

Clarification on a Singular "Oldest Tree", VS. "Oldest Vegetative Cloned Tree"

We cannot have an article about an oldest tree, without discussing some particulars that need to be mentioned. There are individual trees, and trees that survive from a cloning process that I have touched on above. For instance, the Methuselah Tree.

Methuselah Tree

The Methuselah Tree in California USA, is the oldest known non cloned tree that we know of. Many people have probably heard about it, and the name is rather fitting! So it depends on how you want to splice the wording about particular features of a tree. If we are talking about a root system that uses no type of cloning process at all, then the Methuselah tree wins the distinction as oldest tree. This tree is as old as it is, without making any use of vegetative cloning.

Aspen Trees

These trees can be very old, but grow in clusters, and I am not sure they can be considered fair game for "oldest tree", like the Norway Spruce I mention in this article. By the way, I absolutely love those Aspens, they are very beautiful.

The Pando (tree), is the oldest known root system that produces many plants from the same root system. It may be 80,000 years old by some estimations!

So for those trying to win on some trivia contest, have all three answers handy, and ask questions like, "do you mean non cloned or cloned, singular trees or non singular trees", etc.

**Regardless, all these plants and trees are very very impressive to me, and I love them all. The Old Tjikko that this article is mainly about, is the oldest living cloned and singular tree, from the information that I have gathered. This is why the press release put out the information the way they did, and National Geographic did the feature they did on the team from Umea University.

Place where this Conifer was found

A markerDelarma Sweden -
Dalarna, Sweden
get directions


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Factoid, I agree, as I stated in my article above, that even Leif Kullman mentioned it is a cloning process that enabled this singular tree to be as old as it is. I also mentioned how it was a kind of let down in a sense.

      I really do appreciate your input here, and I have made a new addition to my article above to give some clarification on what is meant by oldest tree, vs oldest singular tree, oldest singular cloned tree, and oldest multiple clonal trees, etc. We all know of the Methuselah tree, which I mention in the article, and don't disagree with you on that.

      My point was that this tree is the oldest, singular tree that we know of. The Pandos are beautiful and impressive as a root system as well, and I admired them much this last Summer on my travels. As for the comparison to a person that died and then there was a clone made from them, I have to politely disagree. A person that dies, dies. These root systems never die. Now if people repopulated themselves in a similar fashion, I may agree with you. I wouldn't ever say that a person that died would still be living even if cloned. In the case of this Norway Spruce, the life was always there. I really appreciate your comment, which enabled me to dig deeper and bring some clarification to my article. It will likely help someone to know all the finer details involved. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Factoid 6 years ago

      Actually, it's the cloning process that gives it it's longevity. The plant itself isn't actually that old. The Methusela tree is actually the oldest living non-clonal organism.

      It would be like saying that, if a person died but was cloned immediately afterward, that they would still be living. There are actually much older clonal organisms, such as the Pando of Utah

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Seafarer Mama, I want to see it too, with my family one day! That would be so cool. I appreciate your comments. :)

      Steph, thank you for the visit and comment! I would love to see those trees in Oregon one day, as I think trees are so cool. Those old ones are remarkable to me.

      HappyBoomerNurse, I love how you tied it into our own lives, and how important our own roots are. What is under the surface is of great importance and can be a lifesaver during the storms of life. I love that, thank you so much.

      Seeker, thank you so much for your visit and comment, it made me smile. Glad someone else thought the name Leif was a fun side note lol. :)

      Carcro, I hear you, and I bet that is the next step of the scientists. Its remarkable really. Glad for your visit, thank you!

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      very interesting, I would have thought a tree of that age would be 100 feet tall or 20 feet wide, it hard to imagine a tree or any living thing so old, in most living things the cells age with time and eventually die, but this tree seems to have defied all odds. I'm surprised scientists have not taken chunks out to study the cell and molecular structure for clues as to how it has lived for so long. Thanks for the info, Voted Up!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      That is amazing about this wonderful tree!! Like you I had thought the oldest was in North America.

      And yes it is funny about the guys name - Leif!

      Okay maybe it's not the tallest tree - but trees are all beautiful and majesctic in the their own way!

      Voted up + awesome!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Fascinating hub which is also a metaphor for how to live our lives- pay attention to our roots and what's beneath the surface of our conscious minds.

      The fact I found most interesting was how relatively unimpressive the visible part of the tree was so I was glad you explained how it clones and regenerates.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Very cool hub! We have a number of "Heritage Trees" here in Oregon that are very large and very old. However, a 9500 year old tree is simply amazing! Steph

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 6 years ago from New England

      Hi Oceansunsets,

      Thanks for creating this amazing hub. What a delight it was to read about such a special tree. I also hope to see it up close one day, with my family. :0)

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Ktrapp, thanks for your comment. I agree, its amazing and shows how such an old living tree can keep on going for so long. Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 6 years ago from Illinois

      At first I was wondering how the oldest tree could only be 13 feet tall, but your explanation of the tree's root system springing off new stems makes sense. Its strong roots and ability to regenerate itself is amazing!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Prasetio30, thanks so much for your visit and comment. I too want to see this tree in person. I appreciate your kind words and votes. :)

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      You have great information about this tree. I have never known about before. I can't imagine how big and tall this tree. I hope I can see this in person. You have done a great research. Thanks for share with us. Well done and vote up!


    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Lobobrandon, Yes, 13ft, or 4 meters isn't all that tall. I would agree I think it may have been bigger... Perhaps that wouldn't have caused it to beat the odds it has, who knows? :) Appreciate the comment.

    • lobobrandon profile image

      Brandon Lobo 6 years ago

      I imagined it to be a tall conifer not a 4 meter plant :-):-)