Trees are among of the most interesting, impressive organisms on the planet. They come in all shapes and sizes, and serve countless vital functions for the natural and developed worlds. The diversity, complexity, and history of trees makes for an enormous number of fascinating facts about these kings of Kingdom Plantae. These terrific tree facts explore everything from the nature and mythology of trees to commercial products with tree ingredients.
Methuselah, Oldest Tree in the World
The oldest known living tree is a Great Basin bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California named Methuselah. A drill core sample measured with annual ring counting led scientists to estimate its age at 5,060 years in 2012. The tree is named after a figure of the Old Testament, grandfather to Noah, who was 969 when he died.
Trees Don't Have a Unified Taxonomy
The word "tree" doesn't refer to a unified group of plants in the taxonomy. The species we collectively call trees come from a wide variety of orders and classes. Everything from bamboo to palms to giant redwoods are trees, but belong to different taxonomical groups.
Hyperion, Tallest Tree in the World
The tallest known living tree is a coastal redwood in Northern California called Hyperion. Hyperion was discovered in 2006 by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, who measured it at 379 feet. Hyperion's exact location is a closely guarded secret, for fear that a tourist industry in the area would disrupt the ecosystem. Pictured are other coast redwood jutting above the skyline.
Christmas Trees, Witches, and Goblins
The custom of erecting and decorating evergreen conifer trees in homes around the Christmas Holiday first emerged during the Renaissance of early-modern Germany. By the 1800s, various European nobles and officials adopted and popularized the custom. The tradition is much older the modern Christianity, though, and dates back to medieval times, when Europeans placed special value in plants that remained green in the winter, when everything else died. Evergreen boughs were used in homes to ward off witches, ghosts, and goblins before becoming an emblem of Christmas.