The Science Behind the Oldest Trees on Earth

By Jared Farmer
The Smithsonian
January 3, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: International

What and where are the oldest known trees on the planet? If you include plants that can regenerate, the upper age limit could be ten thousand years or more. …The oldest tree ever known was killed in the act of knowing. Until 1964, it grew in a cirque on Wheeler Peak in Nevada’s Snake Range in what is now Great Basin National Park. After a graduate student researcher tried and failed to extract a complete core sample, he decided to produce a stump. …As soon as Anglo-Americans encountered giant sequoia in the midst of the California gold rush, they acted in paradoxical ways: protecting them while also cutting down trophy specimens for traveling exhibits. …In the 18th century, a French naturalist in Senegal speculated that baobabs could live up to 5,150 years—just shy of the age of the Earth according to biblical chronologies. 

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