- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
The World's Oldest Singular Tree - A Norway Spruce
The World's Oldest Individual Tree - 9,550 Years Old!
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.
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.
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.