Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oldest and Largest Trees on Earth

I was curious about what are the oldest and largest trees on earth -- so I decided to research the topic for today's blog posting.

The Sisters or The Sisters Olive Trees of Noah are a grove of sixteen olive trees in the Lebanese town of Bcheale. They are probably at least 5,000 years old, perhaps 6,000 years old or older. If this is correct, they may be the oldest non-clonal living trees in the world, as the oldest definitely-established age for a living tree is 5,063 years, for a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine in California. The exact age of any of The Sisters has not been determined by dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), and possibly cannot be due to deterioration of the inner tree ring structures over time.

Folk legend ascribes The Sisters as the source of the olive branch returned to Noah's Ark at the waning of the Biblical Flood. The trees still produce olives, and a preservation effort has been undertaken by the non-profit organization Sisters Olive Oil, which markets oil from these olives.

The oldest individual clonal tree in the world is believed to be 9,550 years old (carbon-dated)! This Norway Spruce is located on the Fulufjället Mountain of Dalarna province in Sweden and was discovered by a professor of Physical Geography, Leif Kullman. The tree has been nicknamed "Old Tjikko" after his dog.  At first sight, this 16 foot tall (5 m) tall tree might not seem that old, but it has an unusual growth advantage.  This tree self clones to continue living.   The tree trunk dies every few hundred years, but the root system can live on for thousands of years. Layering occurs when one of the branches touches the ground and eventually "turns into a root".
The trees are found in central Sweden.

Pinus longaeva, the Great Basin bristlecone pine, is a long-living species of tree found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. The species is one of three closely related trees known as bristlecone pines and is sometimes known as the Intermountain or Western bristlecone pine. One member of this species, at 5,063 years old, is the oldest known living non-clonal organism on Earth.  It is a medium-size tree, reaching up to 49 feet tall (15 m) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to nearly 12 feet (3.6 m). The bark is bright orange-yellow, thin and scaly at the base of the trunk. The leaves ('needles') are in groups of five, (1.6 inches/4 cm) that demonstrate the longest persistence of any plant, with some remaining green for 45 years.

The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the world's most massive tree, and arguably the largest living organism on Earth. It is neither the tallest extant species of tree (that distinction belongs to the coast redwood),  nor is it the widest (that distinction belongs to the baobab tree), nor is it the longest-lived (that distinction belongs to the Great Basin bristlecone pine). However, with a height of 286 feet (87 m) or more, a circumference of 113 feet (34 m) or more, an estimated bole volume of up to 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 m3), and an estimated age of 1800–2700 years, the giant sequoia is among the tallest, widest and longest-lived of all organisms on Earth.

Giant sequoias grow in well-defined groves in California mixed evergreen forests.  Because most of the neighboring trees are also quite large, it can be difficult to appreciate the size of an individual giant sequoia. The largest giant sequoias are as tall as a 26-story building, and the width of their bases can exceed that of a city street. They grow at such a rate as to produce roughly 40 cubic feet (1.1 m3) of wood each year, approximately equal to the volume of a 50-foot-tall tree one foot in diameter. This makes them among the fastest growing organisms on Earth, in terms of annual increase in mass. 


Sequoia sempervirens  is the tallest tree on earth.  Common names include coast redwood, California redwood, and giant redwood. It is an evergreen, lives between 1200–1800 years, and grows up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height (without the roots) and up to 26 feet (7.9 m) in diameter. Before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2) along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not sufficient) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States. An estimated 95% or more of the original old-growth redwood forest has been cut down, due to its excellent properties for use as lumber in construction.  The tallest coastal redwood is called Hyperion -- it measures 379.3 feet tall (115.61 m).

El Árbol del Tule (Spanish for The Tree of Tule) is a cypress tree located in the town center of Santa María del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The town was actually named after this tree!  At approximately 1,400 years old (some sources say over 2,000), this tree is believed to have the widest tree trunk in the world, with a diameter of 38.1 feet (11.62 m). There was speculation as to whether the trunk was comprised of several trees, but after careful DNA examination it was determined that this was indeed a single tree.


Let's all do what we can to protect these incredible trees.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I adore trees & have seen one of these. :-D