At 13,000 years, tree is world's oldest organism

The Jurupa Oak tree first sprouted into life when much of the world was still covered in glaciers. It has stood on its windswept hillside in southern California for at least 13,000 years, making it the oldest known living organism, according to a study published today. —Independent

Reading this story reminded me of a story of a different tree. I heard it from the mother of two sisters I knew in high school… they were a State Department family and had spent 10 years living in various parts of Africa.  In the Tenere Desert, there was once a solitary tree, whose roots went down for hundreds of feet. It was the only landmark for miles around, and it was marked on maps that were otherwise almost completely blank. One day a truck driver hit the tree and knocked it down. The locals carried it away and propoped it up in a museum, and in its place put up a metal pole as a monument.

Something about this story really struck me when I heard it as a teenager. (See Arbre du Ténéré.)

One thought on “At 13,000 years, tree is world's oldest organism

  1. A similar story, recounted in Thomas Pakenham’s Remarkable Trees of the World: after the 4000+ year-old trees of Methuselah’s Walk in California were dated, an enthused geography student, Donald Currey, borrowed a ring-borer and went up into the Snake Mountains of Nevada to see if he could find anything older. He found an appropriately ancient-looking bristlecone pine, but got the borer stuck in the hard, twisted wood. He asked the Forest Service if he could cut the tree down to get his borer back, the Forest Service agreed and helped him do so, and it turned out that the tree had been the oldest thus found. (The area is now Great Basin National Park.)
    The methodology for dating the Jurupa oak is rather disputed at the moment, according to New Scientist (which, by contrast to the Independent’s bland ‘Scientists believe’, is in the habit of actually asking other experts about new findings.)

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