Nature Appreciation Post: The Methuselah Tree
When I was a little kid, my after-school program taught a lot of various neat facts, as well as some very advanced science information for an elementary-school level (atoms, basic nuclear physics, energy and mass.) One day, one of the teachers took everyone into a larger room and taught about the Methuselah Tree, as well as showing us a documentary on it. It’s interested me since I was a little kid, and I felt like making a post about what I could find out and what I remembered of it.
The “Methuselah” as it’s been nicknamed, is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine that has been alive for an estimated 4,842 years, making it the oldest non-clonal organism on the planet (The oldest single living thing that is not cloning itself perfectly and spreading in colonies.) Discovered in 1957 by Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan, samples were taken of it by the two, and upon examining the samples they made the shocking discovery of it’s age. When it was discovered, it happened to have a neighboring tree that was roughly the same age as it (one of the other trees they had taken more rough samples from.) Upon discovering that the tree they had damaged severely was of moderate age as well, one of the researchers actually ended up weeping in regret for destroying such a prime specimen. Although originally considered to have ideal conditions for survival, it is actually an unlikely survivor. It gets very little water in an almost-desert climate, it deals with harsh winds, and has even survived nuclear testing in nearby areas, suffering no ill side-effects from the radiation. The tree is named after the biblical figure “Methuselah,” who was said to be 969 years old.
(Information gathered from the “Methuselah Tree” Documentary, as well as various sources.)